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Duchnowski: DeKalb library efforts under way

I had been waiting for Mary Beth Van Buer to call me for weeks.

Well, maybe not her specifically, but someone who was working to raise money for the DeKalb Public Library’s proposed expansion.

Library leaders were surprised around Christmas to learn they were eligible for an $8.5 million state construction grant, but they also need to raise the rest of the money for the project by June 30 to secure the money. From the beginning, library Director Dee Coover has said philanthropy would play an important role in the project.

Coover and other library leaders are planning to get the $15.5 million that, coupled with the $8.5 million grant, will pay to add more than 45,000 square feet to the 19,000-square-foot library through a variety of sources. The three-story expansion would stretch west across Third Street, shutting part of the road. The library, formally known as the Haish Memorial Library, has not been expanded in 40 years.

Library leaders have asked the City Council to borrow $7.5 million by issuing bonds and chip in $1 million from the city’s tax increment financing district funds. Library leaders also plan to use $1 million in library savings.

The other $6 million they had discussed raising from private donations, but given their June 30 deadline, they are exploring borrowing that from a bank and repaying the loan through private donations.

Enter Van Buer. She and 12 other women sit on a fundraising committee for the library. Their first project is under way: Large plastic water jugs – decorated with red, blue and green felt – have been dropped off at DeKalb School District 428’s eight elementary schools, two middle schools and DeKalb High School.

One of the bottles also is at the library so home-schooled students and patrons can leave donations.

Children are encouraged to drop spare change into the belly of the “creature.” Fundraiser organizers acknowledge the change drive isn’t likely to raise tens of thousands of dollars, but it’s the thought that counts.

“We want the community buy-in,” said committee member Ruth Anne Tobias, who also sits on the DeKalb County Board. “The kids use the library, too.”

Committee members thank D-428 Superintendent Jim Briscoe and the school principals for allowing the students to participate in the fundraiser, as well as library employees Emily Gron and Darcy Tatlock for designing the jars. They also thank Northern Illinois Water Works for loaning the large water jugs.

Another fundraiser on the horizon: Van Buer’s committee is planning a community treasure sale for May 4, with the sign-up deadline March 11. They are looking for new or gently used antiques and merchandise. There is a $25 entry fee, and all the money collected through sales at the event will go toward the library building fund. For more information, call Van Buer at 815-756-8677.

Public already contributing: If the DeKalb City Council decides to issue the $7.5 million in bonds, the decision would increase the library’s property tax rate by 8 cents, from 30 cents per $100 in equalized assessed value to 38 cents.

That would cost the owner of a home with a $150,000 assessed value who claims the homeowner’s exemption about $40 more in annual property taxes, city officials estimate.

• Jillian Duchnowski is the news editor at the Daily Chronicle. Reach her at 815-756-4841, ext. 2221, email or follow her on Twitter @JillianDuch.

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