TISKILWA — Tiskilwa has a new library and historic, century-old library building converted into a community center that the village should be proud of for another hundred years, said state legislators who attended a grand opening for the facility Saturday.
And likely no one was prouder of the new library facilities — or of the community as a whole — than library board president Rich Foss.
Before leading a program from his motorized wheelchair and recognizing Tiskilwa residents for their volunteerism and monetary donations, Foss wheeled up the ramp between the new and old buildings and maneuvered easily through the doorway into the library that was once so crammed that able-bodied library patrons often had to walk sideways to pass between bookshelves.
Foss rolled into now wide-open library building that dates to 1908 and beamed. He admired the original floor tile that was discovered under carpeting. He admired the refinished trim, the original hanging light fixtures that had been missing for years and were donated back to the library by resident and project contributor Ed Waca, and he admired the openness of the once-jammed room that now will serve as a place for community and events that the library, until this week, could not accommodate.
The wheelchair-accessible library addition at Tiskilwa indeed opened in early spring, but the entire $1 million project wasn’t completed until late last week.
“It was nip and tuck, but they got it done,” he said before Saturday’s ceremony.
In addition to the restoration of some of the grandest, old bookshelves along one of the walls of the library community room and a future display area for clock from the former clock tower, one of the unusual features in the old library is a wrought iron, marble-topped structure that stands about 5 feet from a corner of the room. Though it looks like a small pulpit, it’s actually a heating register. It now serves as a forced-air heating and air-conditioning duct, said Sridhar Kota, engineer from Hein Construction, Peoria.
“You have to look at it. It’s just amazing,” Foss said of the old library restoration while talking to a crowd gathered in front of the library.
During the ribbon-cutting ceremony outside the library and across the street from some of the village’s Strawberry Festival market festivities, state Rep. David Leitch spoke about the enduring value of libraries.
“I remember when I was a kid; I used to love to ride my bike to the library and read and read and read. … Books took me across the globe,” he said, adding that Tiskilwa has preserved those types of opportunities for children for years to come. He said when he visits communities in his district, he likes to see the quality of the libraries the community supports.
“Clearly Tiskilwa has put itself on the map,” he said of the village’s modern library and its inviting, spacious community building.
Foss and the library board decided in 2001 to either make the old library handicapped-accessible or build an addition. It took more than a decade to complete the job. Village residents raised more than $48,000 over an 11-year period. After the library board was notified it would receive a $504,241 Illinois State Public Library Construction Act Grant, residents donated $72,501 during a fund drive between Sept. 1, 2013 and March 31, 2014. An anonymous donor pledged to match 50 cents of every dollar raised, or $36,250. In total, the community raised more than $150,000.
Through community donations, material contributions and volunteer work by residents and library board members — such as all the interior wall painting, the library staff, board and contractors held the cost of the library to $1,003,792. That’s $15,000 less than the projected cost.
“I love coming to events like this,” said state Rep. Darin LaHood (R-Peoria), “because it shows what a community can do.
“When I hear Rich talking about being under budget, on time, I think we have a few projects for you in Springfield.”
LaHood said when there’s a big project like this one, you need to have someone with a vision to make it successful.
“You need a visionary, and that visionary is Rich,” LaHood said.
Foss, however, wanted to recognize each and every volunteer — just a few included library proponents such as Nancy Johnston and Tracy Hannon; Village President Randy Philhower, who smoothed the transfer of the library property to the library board so the board could qualify for the construction grant; librarian Lisa Bettner, who took the job in the middle of the “construction chaos,” yet always made the library “a welcoming place.”
In closing, after saying he wanted to recognize all 148 people who made donations during the final funding drive, he recognized the oldest donor, Willis Anderson, 94, and youngest, Clayton Rokosz. The 8-year-old spends much of time at the library and one day went home, broke into his piggy bank and brought in $28 in change.