A Comprehensive Plan to Remodel Joliet Library's Downtown Branch

 Projected-Lobby.jpg - 438.03 kB 

*Projected Concept-Main Floor Ottawa Street Lobby 


The Joliet Public Library is excited to announce that we are exploring the renovation and modernization of the interior of our historic Ottawa Street Branch. The focus of the renovation is to provide the Joliet community with updated library spaces and improved access to library resources. The project will create an inviting downtown destination for the community, and serve as an indoor compliment to the adjacent future City Square. 

It was the Library’s original architect, Daniel Burnham who famously said “Make no little plans, they have no power to stir men’s blood.” The Library has been making big plans for the Ottawa Street location, which was originally built in 1903, for years. As part of the Library’s Strategic Planning Process which began in 2015, the Library Board identified creating a master plan for building renovations as a top goal. View the full timeline here.   

Engberg Anderson Presentation to Joliet City Council

Preliminary Floor Plans

Projected Concept Images

Click here to watch the interview with Library Director Megan Millen and Communications Coordinator Mallory Hewlett about Project Burnham, featured on "Profiles" with Richard Fredrickson

What changes will be made and how will the remodel improve services?:

The Library have been good stewards of the historic building by replacing the roof, chiller, an elevator and windows, but have foregone any major interior renovations to the Ottawa Street building since the addition was built nearly 30 years ago in 1991. Project Burnham will address lighting controls, aging building systems, accessibility and plumbing requirements, goals of the project include: 

  • Separate floor just for children and families 
  • A magical discovery zone for youth to encourage creative play and learning
  • Individual and collaborative study spaces. Currently the Ottawa Street Branch has no private study rooms or designated quiet areas.
  • Improved digital media and maker spaces which are already wildly popular at the Library
  • Larger, more extensive Local History Room
  • Opening of the Chicago Street entrance to allow easier access to pedestrians

“Downtown Joliet is in the midst of a grand renaissance and residents are starting to desire downtown living,” said Executive Director of the Library, Megan Millen. “The Marriot Corporation has found downtown Joliet desirable enough to invest in an $18M new hotel project. With several other projects underway or in the offing, now is the perfect time to improve our diamond in the rough Public Library. We imagine families playing in the City Square, enjoying the downtown restaurants, and then going inside the beautifully renovated Library. We envision students from JJC and the University of St. Francis spending time between classes and collaborating in one of our new state-of-the-art study rooms. We picture business owners recording promotional videos in our revamped Digital Media Studio.” 

Project Goals and Design Requirements 

How much will the renovation cost?:

The total estimated cost for the project is $10.5 million. While planning for the project for many years and responsible budgeting, the Library has set aside $4 million in reserves to help fund this project. The Library has requested an estimated $6.5 million from the City of Joliet to be included in the 2020 budget.

Cost to Residents: 

$6.5 million 20 year bond

Projected Burnham cost to Joliet Residents:

Fair Market Value of a $150,000 home: $6.21 a year

Fair Market Value of a $200,000 home: $8.56 a year

Median sale price of Joliet home: $157,800

Breakdown of Preliminary Project Budget and Funding

Can the library go for a referendum vote to pass the project? 
No. The Joliet Public Library, unlike many district libraries in neighboring communities, is a municipal library. Our board is appointed by the Mayor and our levy is approved by City Council each year. We are not our own separate taxing body, but under the City of Joliet, and do not have the ability to sell bonds on our own. If an advisory referendum was done in the community, regardless of the outcome, the City Council would still need to vote yes or no on the issue. The appropriate avenue to seek capital funds for us as a municipal library is to request Council approval.  

When was the last time the library asked for a tax increase? 

Over the past decade, the library has worked with the City to keep costs as low as possible. The library's tax levy has remained relatively flat for the past ten years. Our tax rate has actually declined over the past four years.

If you have $4 million saved, can the library start the project with that money and get the rest later?:

For a project of this size, contractors will not bid without proof of secure funding of the entire amount of the project.  In this case, that means money from both the library's reserves and the City of Joliet selling bonds on our behalf for a total project cost of $10.5 million. Additionally, breaking the project up into parts would result in significant cost escalation (about 4% per year) which would raise the cost of the project for the library and the City of Joliet. 

When was the last time the library made any major upgrades to the OSB? 

1991, the year the addition was built. 

When would construction start?:

We are still in the pre-funding phase of the project. We hope to be included in the City of Joliet’s 2020 budget, announced later this year (2019). Watch this space, our monthly newsletter, and our social media to keep up to date on our next steps. If approved by City Council, construction could start in late 2020. Library officials plan to keep the building open during construction, unless it becomes an issue of public/staff safety or access.  

Who uses the library?:

In 2018, the Joliet Public Library provided over 3,000 free programs for adults, children and young adults at both their locations, welcoming over 90,500 attendees. The Library has a collection of 267,620 printed materials and over 56,000 e-Books. The Ottawa Street Branch welcomed about 175,000 visitors last year. 

“As the third largest city in Illinois, Joliet should have a modern public library that reflects the changing needs of a resurging downtown,” said Millen. “Joliet Public Library, in the heart of downtown, can be an  anchor to economic development and growth. Together with the City of Joliet, we can create a unique and fabulous destination for our community.” 

Will you be changing the look or historic feel of the Library?

While the interior of the Library will receive a modern upgrade, it is a priority of ours to keep Daniel Burnham’s vision alive. We plan to mirror many of the touches from the original building while upgrading and modernizing the space. Our history is a part of who we are, and we plan to preserve that.

What can I do to show support?

Contact your Joliet City Council representative to let them know you support the Joliet Public Library's proposed renovation, Project Burnham. You can find your Councilmember information here.

How are you gathering community input?

As part of the strategic planning process in 2015, the Library conducted a community survey (with 659 responses). Click here to see the results. In early 2019, Anders Dahlgren of Library Planning and Associates held a series of focus groups gathering input from many different stakeholders.The community identified improving the Library's physical space as a top goal. 

How can I learn more about this?

You can receive updates by joining our mailing list and following us on Facebook. If you have further questions, please contact us at 815-740-2660. 

Check out our About Project Burnham flyer here!

Media Contact 

Mallory Hewlett · 815-846-3124 · mhewlett@jolietlibrary.org 

Next steps: 

Update December 27, 2019: Funding for Project Burnham was approved at the Special City Council Meeting on December 26, 2019. 

December 26, 2019: Special Joliet City Council meeting to vote on 2020 budget, including Project Burnham. 

December 17, 2019: Joliet City Council will vote whether or not to include $6.5 million in the 2020 budget.

November 25, 2019: Special Meeting of City Council @ 6:30 pm: Library Director Megan Millen will speak on behalf of Project Burnham and the 2020 operating budget. 

August 19, 2019: Presentation to full City Council

July 27, 2019: Preliminary plans will be presented to the Joliet City Council at their meeting on August 19, 2019. 

More projected design concepts: 

*Chicago Street Entry

*Lower Level




Find us on Facebook
Google Search
JPL on LinkedIn