LAKE FOREST — Beneath the tarp covering the dome of the Lake Forest Library lie necessary projects of $400,000 to repair the dome itself, and between $1 million and $1.5 million to save murals painted by a renowned artist in 1931, according to Library Director Catherine Lemmer.
Lemmer told the Lake Forest City Council on February 5 at City Hall about the necessity to fix the dome, restore the murals and hire an architect to create a path to remedy other needs of the aging 1931 structure.
Along with the dome and murals are other significant capital improvement needs as well as enhancements for the user experience based on a survey taken last year. Estimates for those costs are not yet known.
The leaded copper dome itself must be replaced at an estimated cost of $300,000, according to Lemmer. The brick and limestone making up the dome’s substructure requires repairs projected to cost another $100,000.
“The problem with it is all of the water has gone into the seams,” said Lemmer. “The caulking is gone or in many cases just lifts off.”
Lemmer said the dome was redone in 1984 and needs to be replaced again. At that time, she said 1931 technology was used. Now she wants a more modern approach based on advice received.
“The dome should be modernized, it should be ventilated,” said Lemmer. “There is some speculation some modification in the design may help it last longer.”
On the inside of the dome, which patrons can see when the look up, are murals created Nicoli Remisoff. He did the work when the library was built in 1931. Lemmer said restoring the murals will cost between $1 million to $1.5 million. At first she was not sure if they should remain but then she took a closer look at the artist’s background.
“He’s a fairly prominent person of his generation,” said Lemmer. “He did a lot of work in Hollywood. He did work in New York.”
The problems with the dome and the murals are interrelated, according to Lemmer. She said while costs to alleviate the issues are known, more study is necessary.
“Wrapping the dome for the winter was simply buying us time,” said Lemmer. “The rapid acceleration to the damage to the murals is not caused by water leaking in but by water in the brick leaching through.”
Along with the immediate needs of the dome and murals, Lemmer said there are issues with the mechanical systems—there are five of them serving different parts of the building—as well as foundation issues and more.
Library officials also took a survey last year to learn what the community wants to see in the library. Lemmer said the results showed more flexible and inviting spaces, increased hours of operation, more space for young adults, more meeting rooms, more adult and young adult activities and additional parking.
The infrastructure needs and public wishes were melded into a strategic plan to enhance the user experience, improve accessibility for all users including updated compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act, modernize the existing space and making its programs more visible.
Lemmer said the library has been acting on problems it finds rather than embarking on a long term capital improvement project to avoid future pitfalls. She said they also want to add an enhanced user experience.
“We need to get proactive,” said Lemmer. “Everything about this for a long time has been reactive. We want to figure out a way to get ahead of the problems.”
At this time the library is talking to architecture firms to help it develop that plan. Late last year, it issued a Request for Qualifications and is now talking to a list of five finalists before one is hired.
“We wanted somebody who had historic sensibilities,” said Lemmer. “Somebody who understood aging infrastructure and somebody who had library experience to come in and marry it all together.”