When Gov. Pat Quinn put a freeze on legislators’ salaries last year during the battle over pension reform, officials at the North Riverside Public Library winced.
While pension reform may have been indeed important, a state appropriation for several area libraries, including North Riverside’s was frozen along with legislators’ pay. And North Riverside was in line to receive $100,000.
“We were in limbo through that whole period,” said Library Director Robert Lifka.
But last month the money arrived, and now the North Riverside Library Board of Trustees has to decide what to do with the windfall. They have until September 2015 to spend the money, said Lifka.
The state appropriation came through the lobbying of state Rep. LaShawn Ford (D-8th), and it was unexpected when North Riverside landed on the state budget as a line item last May, said Lifka.
Ford had supported the library’s 2013 application for a $25,000 grant for computer equipment from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.
“We wanted to renew the grant, but the DCEO wasn’t offering it again,” said Lifka. “LaShawn Ford said, ‘I’ll see what I can do.’ The next thing I knew there was a line item in the state budget for us.”
Other libraries given special appropriations through the lobbying of Ford were Oak Park, LaGrange Park and LaGrange.
The grant can be used for any library purpose, according to Lifka, but officials haven’t decided what to do with the money yet.
“The board wants to spend it very carefully,” said Lifka. “We don’t want to start something we can’t sustain.”
Lifka indicated that the money could be used to fund small capital projects or for equipment that would benefit patrons.
It turns out that 2014 has been a very good year for the North Riverside Public Library in terms of grants. The library applied for and received two grants through the Illinois State Library.
The library received a $2,547 Back to Books grant, which will be used to start a Spanish language collection in North Riverside. In addition, the library was awarded a $12,196 Live and Learn Construction grant — a 50/50 matching grant that Lifka said will be used to upgrade the interior signage of the library.
Lifka acknowledged that $24,000 for signs in the library seemed like an awful lot of money.
“It’ll be a lot easier to find things in the library,” he said.