Delavan council approves library expansion

Aram Public Library in Delavan will undergo a major renovation with a more than 21,000 square-foot addition at a cost of approximately $9 million, following approval by the Common Council. The city will pay up to $6.5 million while the library board will fundraise to cover the remainder. The rendering shows what would be the new main entrance on Fourth Street.

By Michael S. Hoey


The Delavan Common Council recently approved a plan to renovate the 12,116 square-foot Aram Public Library and build a 21,028 square-foot addition at a cost of approximately $9 million.

Mayor Ryan Schroeder said at the Aug. 17 council meeting the city will pay up to $6.5 million of the project and the library board will fundraise to cover the remainder.

Groundbreaking is not anticipated to take place until 2023 or later. Schroeder said the project has been on the city’s radar since at least 2010 and is long overdue.

Alderman Carrie Deschner Brandt – who represents the council on the Library Board – said when she first joined the board she was initially skeptical the addition was needed but her mind was changed after spending some time in the library and realizing how many people from the community use it.

“The programs the library offers are amazing,” she said. “I am really excited.”

According to a joint press release from the library and city, Aram Public Library opened in 1908 and is a well-used community resource that anchors downtown Delavan. A needs assessment conducted in 2018 determined the library needed more space, predicted the library’s service population will expand to 16,300 by 2040 with long-term needs projected to require 24,000 square feet of space, more than double what the current library offers.

Resources and services the library needs now or will need in the future include bilingual services, more community meeting and individual study rooms, more parking and mobile services while remaining in downtown Delavan.

Michelle Carter, library director, said in the press release they currently have one meeting room with a maximum capacity of 35 people. Many of the library’s programs draw up to 200 people and there are daily requests for more meeting spaces. Additional space is also required for materials, seating and technology. Bookshelves are at capacity, so vigorous weeding of old material must tale place to make room for new material.

Seating capacity is also an issue as standards indicate 90 seats for library serving a population this size; Aram has 30 seats. The building is also lacking enough power outlets to plug in devices, there is no space for quiet study and there is no space for visitors to conveniently or comfortably use their electronic devices.

Carter said space in the new building will be allocated for community partners like the Delavan Historical Society. Upgrades will also bring the building up to code, bring it into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and meet the needs of the public better.

The project will include renovating the existing space, adding 21,028 square feet of new space, a new entrance on Fourth Street, multiple rooms for events and meetings, a designated teen/young adult area, a larger more modern children’s area, a “Discovery/Exploration” area for youth, a remote workspace and centralized technology area, access to meeting rooms outside of library hours and more.

“I am thrilled and so very excited to have the opportunity to work with our community stakeholders in this new direction for the Aram Public Library,” Carter said. “Envisioning our library in a new and renovated space gives us the opportunity to bring so much more to our residents including expanded children and teen areas, makerspace and meeting/study rooms – Hand me a shovel, I’m ready to dig!”

“I am so excited that we’ll be able to provide 21st century access and services to our community,” Aram Board of Trustee President Elle DeDow said.

Wayne Osborn, President of the Aram Public Library Foundation agreed that this is exciting news.

“Now Delavan is committed to moving forward on creating a library that will provide the same services in our community as modern libraries elsewhere,” Osborn said.

“Understanding the expanded roles of libraries in building strong, vibrant communities, I am very excited to be with the City of Delavan during this moment in time and to help in any way I can to carry our its vision for the future of the Aram Public Library,” City Administrator Brian Wilson said.

For more coverage from the meeting, pick up a copy of the Aug. 26 Delavan Enterprise.

One Comment

  1. I grew up in Delavan but haven’t lived there for a long time. I am very excited for the community! Delavan holds a special place in my heart.