Elgin Community College (ECC) celebrated the grand opening of their Academic Library and Learning Center last Friday. The library is special compared to the libraries at other Illinois colleges because it required a voter referendum that requested $178 million in property taxes in April of 2009. That was just six months after Lehman Brothers went bankrupt and was during a very uncertain economic environment. Voters barely approved the referendum with 19488 in favor and 19453 opposed.
35 voters ended up approving a property tax increase of 3.5 cents per $100 in assessed value. The tax increase would pay for a massive construction project that would renovate and expand the ECC campus. Part of the renovation was $26 million to build a new school library. That library ended up only costing $21.5 million and was completed about six months ahead of schedule. The new library was needed to handle the growth in the enrollment at the college which had increase by 400 percent since the old library was built.
The college library is a beautiful new facility that replaces what was the smallest community college library in the Chicago area. The library is about three times the size of the old building and has all the modern features and advantages of a modern library.
It’s amazing that the library was able to be built given that Chicago public libraries are struggling to stay open. Mayor Rahm Emanuel decided to cut $8 million in library funding and is having difficulty getting his plan approved by the labor union representing the library employees.
One has to wonder if the people of Chicago will end up trying to fight for their libraries by putting a referendum on the ballot. If a referendum can pass at the height of the recession to approve massive dollars for a new library and college campus, then you would think it’d be easy to get one to pass for just the continued funding of libraries.