The Joliet Public Library is excited to announce that funding for Project Burnham from the Rebuild Illinois Community Development Initiative grant has been partially received and will be paid to the City of Joliet. The grant money will be received in full when the project is complete in the fall. 

The total amount of $6.3 million, which will be used to cover a portion of the library’s renovation of the interior of the downtown Ottawa Street Branch, was paid upfront through the City of Joliet selling bonds to cover immediate construction costs. These bonds will be paid off by the state grant next year when they become callable, which is several years early.  The total cost of the project is $10.5 million, funded through the state grant and library reserves. No new funding for the library renovation came from Joliet property taxes. 

Executive Director of the Joliet Public Library, Megan Millen,  is pleased with how the project is going forward.

“This is exciting,” said Millen. “We had expected the funds to be paid out over a few years. To hear that the money has been received and the City will be paid back early for the bonds is wonderful news. We are grateful to Senator McGuire, a longtime friend of the Joliet Public Library, for supporting our mission and thinking of us for this grant. We are also thankful to the City Council, for voting to sell the bonds for us until the grant money came through.”

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, which has presented challenges in the form of material shortages, the library project is still proceeding on schedule. The project is currently in Phase Three, which will focus on the Digital Media Studio in the lower level and Adult collections areas on the first floor. The library has been able to keep their doors open every day during construction. Library administration plans for a Grand Re-opening of the renovated space in September.

“Getting the funding for a project of this size was a challenge,” said Millen. “Through responsible budgeting over many years, and this state grant, we rose to the challenge to achieve this goal of renovating our beautiful library without new costs to taxpayers.” 

The focus of the renovation is to provide the Joliet community with updated library spaces and improved access to library resources:

  • Adding a discovery zone destination for children to encourage creative play and learning
  • Creating individual or collaborative study spaces. Currently the Ottawa Street Branch has no private study rooms or designated quiet areas.
  • Explore and improve digital media and maker capacities as our services (such as 3D printing, T-shirt printing and technology classes) continue to grow
  • Creating better access to technology and resources, including adding more power outlets and space for new technologies
  • Opening up the Chicago Street Entrance for convenient public access

The current Ottawa Street Branch was built in 1903 and designed by renowned Chicago architect Daniel Burnham. Over the years, Joliet families have enjoyed the building’s marble walls, limestone exterior, and arched windows. In 1991, a 49,000 square foot extension was built to accommodate Joliet’s growing population and complement the design of the original building. The addition was constructed to replicate the original building’s exterior. For more information, visit our website at jolietlibrary.org.