Brookfield Library Board President Dianne Duner said that the library board would hold a referendum before going forward with plans to build a new library. At three public meetings held earlier this month, Duner said that a new library would cost between $9.5 million and $12 million. The library has the capacity to raise up to $7.4 million without a referendum.

“The library does anticipate that some additional funding will be needed,” Duner said. “We will do a referendum. It won’t be for two to five years. We believe a new building is needed.”

This summer the library is expected to close on a deal to buy the Brookfield United Methodist Church building across the street from the library for $615,000. The library board hopes to tear down the church and build a new library on the church site at Lincoln Avenue and Grand Boulevard. The site of the current library would then become a parking lot.

The library has submitted a proposal for a planned unit development (PUD) to the village of Brookfield. The village’s Plan Commission will likely hold a meeting in June to consider the library’s application, said Brookfield’s assistant village manager, Keith Sbiral.

The library showed off preliminary plans to the public at three recent public forums held in its cramped downstairs meeting room.

Duner emphasized that the library board is merely taking advantage of the church being on the market and has no plans to build a new library right away.

“We have no plans to build a library for two to five years,” Duner said. “We will spend the next two to five years listening to feedback.” 

Final costs for a new library are not available, because the library board has not picked a design yet.

“We need to do this right,” said library Trustee Jennifer Perry. “That’s why we’re not rushing it.”

Duner said that the library intends to sell the home it owns at 3507 Arden Ave. to raise money to put toward a new library. In 2007, the library purchased the home for $400,000 as part of a plan to assemble properties and build a new library at that location.

But when one homeowner refused to sell his home, that plan collapsed. The library has been renting out the Arden Avenue home, waiting for the housing market to recover. Less than two years ago, the home had an appraised value of $300,000.

Preliminary plans displayed at the public meetings envision a new 35,000- to 39,000-square-foot, two-story library with a full basement. The current library has just 13,500 square feet of interior space.

“We are the smallest public library in the western suburbs for a town of our size,” said Brookfield Library Director Kimberly Litland.

Litland said that the small size of the current library means that the library has to turn away people from some of its public events.

In all, 2,789 people were turned away from programs due to size constraints, according to a library video presentation.

Litland said that sometimes the small meeting rooms of the library are crammed with more people than are legally allowed.

The small size of the current library also limits the library’s collection.

“We’re throwing away one book for every book that we buy,” Litland said. “That is criminal.”

Attendees at the May 19 public meeting ranged from interested and enthused to skeptical.

“I thought it was informative and it gave me some things to think about,” said Karen Kuba. “I’m not totally convinced that we need a library of that size.”