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Galesburg library nears fundraising goal for new facility

A rendering of the 68,000 square foot Galesburg Public Library building to be constructed in the 200 block of West Main Street.
Photo courtesy Galesburg Public Library
A rendering of the 68,000 square foot Galesburg Public Library building to be constructed in the 200 block of West Main Street.

With a $775,000 contribution from the city approved this week, the Galesburg Public Library is getting closer to the fundraising goal for its new library. 

Seventy-five percent of construction costs for the new facility are being funded by a $15.3 million Public Library Construction Act Grant from the Illinois State Library, announced in March.

The remaining $3.75 million needed to complete the project is being raised locally through a capital campaign.

Library director Noelle Thompson said the city’s contribution, combined with $1.3 million already raised, means more than half of the local funds are now secured.

“It’s very exciting,” Thompson said.


Long a vision for the community

Though the library staff and board first hired a building consultant for a potential new library in 2007, the project was a vision for the community long before that.

Galesburg once had a Carnegie Library.

Built in 1902, that facility was destroyed by fire in May of 1958.

Several years later, in 1961, the library reopened in what was meant to be a temporary building at the original site on East Simmons Street.

“And here we are 60 years later still in that temporary building,” Thompson said.

Issues in the current facility include inadequate space for materials and youth activities, lack of private office space and study rooms, insufficient parking and accessibility concerns.

A new, 68,000 square foot library will solve those practical problems.

But for Thompson, it’s also about valuing knowledge and the opportunities and empowerment that come with that knowledge.

“All of those values are so strong in a public library and we believe more than ever we need those in our community today,” Thompson said. “So investing in the new building is really about investing in our community and the well-being of the people who live around us.”

Expanding the technological footprint

The new library will take up the entire 200 block of West Main Street in downtown Galesburg.

Plans call for ample parking and community rooms, green spaces, an expanded children’s area, and the opportunity to expand the library’s collection by more than 30,000 items.

“Right now we have about 140,000 items on our shelves so it’s over a 20 percent increase we’ll be able to grow in the building,” Thompson said.

The $775,000 from the city, unanimously approved by the city council this week, will be used for the new facility’s technology costs, including networking, software, and equipment.

In the new facility, the library’s technological footprint will expand to include a skills lab, more computers for patron use and for checkout, and setups for remote work and conferencing needs in the community.

In addition, the entire city block at the library site will be wired for high-speed internet access for public use.

Thompson said the technology is to help ensure all members of the community have the digital access and digital literacy skills essential to securing employment and basic needs.

“Whether that’s scheduling an appointment to get a vaccine, communicating with our doctors and following up with our doctors, filing for unemployment, filing our taxes,” Thompson said. “All of those essential requirements from our day to day lives required internet access but also the ability to use computers and other devices.

Construction to move forward

The library project is moving forward during the last phase of fundraising.

Properties at the at site have already been acquired and demolished.

Williams Brothers Construction was awarded a $16.3 million construction bid last month.

Thompson said, weather-permitting, there could be some activity at the site during the winter months.

Construction will begin in earnest in the spring, with Galesburg’s new public library expected to be open to patrons by the end of 2023.

Tri States Public Radio produced this story.  TSPR relies on financial support from our readers and listeners in order to provide coverage of the issues that matter to west central Illinois, southeast Iowa, and northeast Missouri. As someone who values the content created by TSPR's news department please consider making a financial contribution.

Jane Carlson is TSPR's regional reporter.