Haish Memorial Library Historical Preservation/Addition

Dekalb, Illinois

The 16,000-square-foot DeKalb Public Library started as a reading room stocked with donated books in the 1880s. Built in 1930 through a $150,000 gift from local barbed-wire magnate Jacob Haish, this building is a beautiful example of the art deco style. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.

In addition to renovating and preserving the historic library, we will construct a new 51,000 square-foot, two-story addition which will bring the total size of the library to 60,000 square feet by 2016. This restoration is made possible through a combination of library and city funding and public support. 


Get a live view into the construction process through our webcam.


Growing for tomorrow

About 1,000 people visit the library daily, Coover said, where they can browse 100,000 items in the building’s collection, use the computers or attend a program. But offerings are crammed into the Haish Memorial Library. For every item added to the collection, they had to remove one and if an item has not been checked out for two years, it also gets taken off the shelves. What’s more, the building is not handicap accessible. Seeing the need to improve the aging building and provide more space for library patrons, library leaders started talking about expansion in 2007. In turn, they adopted a resolution promising to expand.

Preserving design

Nagle Hartray Architecture's design challenge was to allay Library and community concerns about adding onto its historic building without compromising the efficiency of an expanded floor plan. The design addresses these concerns by repeating the rhythm of the existing building plan, defining a new central building entry that makes all areas of the expanded floor plan equally accessible, and using the language of the existing architecture as a basis for the new without the type of simple imitation that would confuse old and new.

What to expect

Through the fall, crews will demolish the library’s former parking lot and sidewalk, moving utilities and laying the foundation. Structural steel will be erected in December. The new building will be complete within the next 18 months. After that, crews will renovate the existing building, with the project slated to be complete in 2016.

Owner: DeKalb Public Library
Architect: Nagle Hartray Architecture
Owner's Representative: CCS International, Inc.