By Bob Uphues
Riverside Public Library is in for a major lower-level makeover later this year after voters overwhelmingly chose to approve a $1.5 million bond issue to fund the long-planned work.
With seven of the village's eight precincts reporting, support for the bond issue was running at 72.6 percent, with no votes getting just 27.4 percent of the total.
"I keep coming back to what I've said 100 times over the past few months," said Courtney Greve Hack, a library trustee who has been the communications point person for the library board. "The library is the heart of the community. And residents showed their love at the ballot box. This is going to benefit everyone in the community."
The library board decided to go to referendum late last year after two years of fundraising for the renovation of the lower level, which houses services for children and teens, netted about $220,000.
That money was able to be used to build out the new Early Learners Area, which was unveiled earlier this year and had become a tangible illustration of what the library board's plans for the rest of the lower level was going to look like.
The $1.5 million will fund the construction of a new storytime/multipurpose room, a common area with bookshelves and furniture for Children and Youth Services, a separate Teen Room and an area for middle schoolers.
Also due for an upgrade will be the library's lone public meeting room, which will be enlarged, so that it can be divided to hold more than one program at a time.
Greve Hack said the library board had planned to move quickly if the referendum was successful in order to begin and complete construction before the end of 2020.
How the COVID-19 pandemic will alter those plans isn't known, but from the perspective of a government agency issuing bonds, the financial timing couldn't be better.
"We'll have to look at all that and see how to move forward," Greve Hack said. "We don't know the impact of COVID-19 or the timing, but we're going to regroup as soon as we can to find out our next steps."
Greve Hack praised the work of the dozens of local volunteers who formed the Vote Yes committee, going door to door to talk to voters, advocating for the referendum on social media and handing out yard signs and fliers.
"It really was a grassroots effort," Greve Hack said.