The North Riverside Public Library is making the last preparations before beginning a construction project on its lower level this month. The six-month projected is estimated to cost at least $600,000, and will allow for the expansion of most of the library’s book sections.

Library Director Robert Lifka said this project has been anticipated since the library was built seven years ago. At the time, most of the lower level was left unfinished with the intention of filling it in as the library grew.

“When it was constructed, the first floor was sufficient to house the library’s resources,” Lifka said. “But seven years later we’re getting full and we need space.”

When complete, Lifka said, the lower level will house the Youth Services Department. The section will be expanded from its current size, with extra bookshelves, two study rooms, a larger computer area and a reading room for special events.

Lifka said the removal of youth services from the first floor will also allow for the expansion of the library’s other sections. The Young Adult section will be redesigned, he said, and extra book shelves will be installed for the Adult Reference, Non-Fiction and Fiction sections.

The larger facilities will also lead to a need for additional staff. Lifka said two part-time positions will be added to the current staff of three full-time and 16 part-time employees.

The cost of the project has not been finalized yet, but six bid proposals opened at the library last week provided cost estimates ranging between $598,700 and $826,216. Lifka said the library’s architect is currently reviewing the bids, and the library board will vote to accept one at their meeting Feb. 12.

He added that the bids only take into account the actual construction work of building walls and installing utilities. Lifka said he was still researching the extra costs of the furniture and book shelves that will be needed to fill the space.

As for paying for the project, Lifka said the library has saved $350,000 for the construction since 2002, but will have to seek external financing for the remaining costs. He said the board was currently working with a financial consultant to determine the best way to do that.

“We’re not sure what vehicle we’re going to use yet,” he said. “It could be bonds or something else. We’re still looking at our options.”