With the March 17 presidential primary election less than a week away, a committee of volunteers raised to advocate for passage of a $1.5 million bond issue to fund improvements at the Riverside Public Library are hard at work.

According to Pete Durbin, a Riverside resident and co-chair of Vote Yes for the Riverside Public Library, about 40 volunteers have spent that past couple of months knocking on doors, distributing fliers and handing out yard signs in support of the referendum.

Durbin, the husband of Nora Durbin, who is head of youth services as the library, said volunteers have passed out at least 500 fliers and plan to distribute more this week at the downtown Riverside Metra station. 

The committee has raised about $1,200 in donations to help fund printing of the fliers and also for the 150 yard signs that have already been distributed around town. There’s another shipment of 50 to deliver this week.

The Facebook page Durbin created at the end of December has picked up about 200 followers. Its posts include a pair of short videos, one focusing on the need for a lower-level renovation and another a “virtual tour” of what’s planned.

While there hasn’t been any organized opposition or even much in the way of social media pushback, Durbin said the committee’s work is important in informing voters.

“Not everyone does seem to be aware of the referendum,” said Durbin, a marketing director and father of twin 7 year olds who volunteered to be the committee’s social media coordinator. “We want to extra sure [voters] make it to the end of the ballot.”

The Riverside Public Library Board of Trustees voted to place the $1.5 million bond issue on the ballot late last year after a two-year attempt to raise private donations to fund a complete renovation of the lower level, which houses youth and teen services, genealogy/research collection and the public meeting room.

The fundraising campaign had been launched in fall 2017 when the library board unveiled its plans for the renovation, which seeks to create individual spaces for younger children and teens, cut down on noise from downstairs reaching the upper floor and enlarge the public meeting room.

The last time the lower level underwent a major physical renovation was in 1986.

Through its capital campaign, the library board raised about $220,000, including a $55,000 donation from the now-disbanded Riverside Elementary Education Foundation (REEF) earmarked for the creation of a Teen Room.

All but that REEF donation was used to build out the new Early Learners Room in the southwest corner of the lower level, a space that made its debut at the Reading Between the Wines tasting event in February and serves as an example of how the area will be transformed.

“It’s a place where kids zero to 5 can hang out with their caregivers and parents, and it’s all theirs,” said Library Director Janice Foley. “It’s geared so they can access the books easier and it has a great view.”

Andrea Parham, nanny for a Riverside resident, said she and the child visit the new space about four times a week, an increase from the two or three weekly visits before the room was built out.

 “It’s a cool space for their age,” Parham said, nodding to Simon, who was focused on one of the two iPads loaded with children’s programs, which were donated by Riverside Township. “Once he found out about the new room, he just loves to come here.”

At the same time, Aimee Both read aloud to her daughter, Rowan Marquez, 3, next to a play table featuring a wooden train set and new, low bookshelves, where book covers face outward, instead of the spines, allowing kids to choose their own books.

“It’s an example of what we’re planning to do,” Foley said.

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