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DeKalb library seeks large donors for expansion

Youth services manager Theresa Winterbauer helps a group of children Dec. 26 with a craft project at the DeKalb Public Library.
Youth services manager Theresa Winterbauer helps a group of children Dec. 26 with a craft project at the DeKalb Public Library.

DeKALB – Library director Dee Coover is looking for a philanthropist or two to be the top donors for the library’s expansion.

Library leaders learned late last month that they are eligible for an $8.5 million Illinois Public Library Construction Grant so long as they can raise the rest of the money for the project by June 1. Coover said she still is determining how much money the library will have to raise and how grand expansion plans discussed months ago can be implemented in phases.

But philanthropy will play a role in any expansion, just as it played a major role in the current Haish Memorial Library Building, which was dedicated at 309 Oak St. in 1931, Coover said.

The city provided the land, and barbed-wire millionaire Jacob Haish provided $150,000 for the library with his name written above its entrance, according to the library’s website,

“How do I know there won’t be someone who says, ‘Jacob Haish did this in 1930; I can do it for the next 100 years,’ ” Coover said.

Library board members will discuss the expansion project and naming opportunities at a special meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the library.

Coover has requested a meeting with state library officials to discuss the grant requirements and will discuss financing options and rules, including referendums, next week. She said the library plans to launch a public fundraising campaign in the middle of February.

Plans have been drawn to add 48,000 square feet to the existing 19,000-square-foot building. The three-story expansion would stretch west across Third Street, which would become a two-way street north of the library to allow access to First Lutheran Church at 324 N. Third St.

The library building is on the National Register of Historic Places, which also means its handicapped accessibility is limited. The addition will have “universal access,” design, including a wide ramp at the main entrance.

Coover is emphasizing the accessibility issues during the tours she started giving on Friday evenings. The multi-level library does not have an elevator.

“I want people to imagine they are in a wheelchair,” Coover said.

To participate in the tours, people should walk into the library’s Oak Street entrance and meet by its fireplace by 6:30 p.m. on Fridays. For information, call the library at 815-756-9568.

If you go...
What: Tours of the DeKalb Public Library
Where: 309 Oak St.
When: 6:30 p.m. Fridays
Information: Call the library at 815-756-9568.

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