The lower-level renovation will give different age groups spaces of their own, including a room specifically for teens and young adults (above), proving separation from younger kids. (Courtesy of Riverside Public Library)

Construction for the renovation of the Riverside Public Library’s lower level is expected to begin by Sept. 15 after the library board voted last week to award a contract to Chicago-based Lo Destro Construction Company, which was the low bidder for the project.

Lo Destro beat out 13 other firms bidding on the job, which will transform the lower-level children and young adult services departments into contemporary spaces that separate age groups, mitigate noise and create flexible meeting spaces for public use.

“The hope is to have a preconstruction meeting next week, with work beginning the following week after that,” said Darren Schretter, the library’s architect.

In preparation for demolition and construction, library officials have been moving materials, throwing out old shelving units and offering library furniture – from study carrels to substantial oak library tables – for sale to residents.

Library Director Janice Foley said the roughly 40 pieces of furniture advertised for sale last week sold out within two days. Another batch of furniture will be advertised for sale on Sept. 2 on the library’s Facebook page and through email to library patrons. The sale will be conducted Sept. 3.

“Desks were at a premium,” said Foley. “The majority were purchased so kids could [do school] work at home and have bigger desks and tables.

Items for sale this week include a couple of more tables, chairs, credenzas, file cabinets, wooden record bins, a couple of entertainment centers from the storytime and public meeting rooms, as well as Wii and Xbox 360 videogame consoles.

As for the old wood card catalogue? That’s going into Foley’s office.

Except for the bathrooms, the lower level, including the Early Learners room, will remain off limits to patrons during construction.

Many books from the Children and Youth Services departments are being moved into the Great Room and used book sale room on the upper floor.  Patrons can also request materials from Children’s and Youth Services and employees will retrieve them.

The two computer stations used for genealogy research have been brought up to the movie room on the upper level and are still available for use. Genealogy volunteers will be onsite to assist researchers on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Patrons wishing to visit the library to browse the collection or to use computers still need to make reservation to do so.

Once work begins, Foley said it shouldn’t be too noisy as it’s a renovation and not a full-blown new build. Work crews will also begin their work day a good three hours before the library opens its doors to the public.

The noisy stuff, as much as possible, will get done then,” Foley said. “It’s not going to be very loud for a long period of time.”

The renovation work is expected to continue through the winter and wrap up by March or April 2021.

Schretter’s firm, StudioGC Architecture and Interiors, was hired to do space planning for the lower level back in 2013. The library board unveiled its final plan in 2017 and had attempted to raise the money for the lower-level overhaul through special event fundraisers and private donations.

That effort was only partially successful. After three years, the library had raised $220,000 and trustees decided in late 2019 to go directly to voters to fund the project. 

In the meantime, they used most of the money they had raised to build out the new Early Learners Area as an example of what they planned for the rest of the lower level.

In March, voters convincingly passed a referendum to allow library officials to issue $1.5 million in construction bonds. The library board sold the bonds in June.