The 10,598-square-foot Rakow Branch Library (RBL) at 2751 West Bowes Road opened on August 15, 2009. In 135 years of operation, it was the Gail Borden Public Library’s first branch.
It is called the Rakow Branch because Tom & Sue Rakow, their children, and grandchildren paid for its construction through a gift to the Gail Borden Public Library Foundation. The Rakows did this to honor Tom Rakow’s parents, Melvin E. “Pete” Rakow & Mary T. Rakow, and his sister, Barbara Rakow Rietz.
Tom Rakow is COB of the IHC Construction Companies, LLC, which, as I mentioned in Part II, built the Main Library. The company was founded in 1906 as the Illinois Hydraulic Stone & Construction Company by Carl J. Seagren, William Kallasch, Stanley White and Harry Leach. Originally, as one might guess from the name, the company produced concrete blocks that were compressed by hydraulic pressure. They began to phase out the production of concrete blocks in 1913 as the company began to concentrate on road paving. Over time, the company diversified its manufacturing and construction operations.
In 1947, the company’s founders retired and ceded management to several employees, one of whom was Melvin E. Rakow. The company name changed to Illinois Hydraulic Construction Company. The company continued to diversify. Work for Commonwealth Edison, Illinois Bell, and other utilities became a core operation of the company.
In 1970, the company became a family-owned business when Melvin Rakow’s last partner retired and sold his ownership stake in the company to Rakow. Two years later, Melvin Rakow died. Subsequently, May Rakow became President and Secretary and Thomas S. Rakow was elected to Executive Vice President and Treasurer. Elected to the company’s presidency in 1980, Tom Rakow continued to diversify the services offered by the company and in May of 1994 changed its name to IHC Group, Inc.
In January of 2002, Tom Rakow assumed the board chairmanship and Vice President David Rock succeeded him as president. To clarify construction was the company’s core business, IHC Group was renamed IHC Construction Companies, LLC.
Pulte Homes donated the land on which the Rakow Branch Library stands. The architectural firm of Engberg Anderson Design Partnership, based up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, designed the Rakow Branch Library. It would be fair to say the design of libraries is a core business of this firm.
The RBL received a Gold-level certification under the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System. Shales McNutt Construction (SMC), which had anticipated Silver-level LEED certification, stated this “project uses many state-of-the-art technologies such as geothermal heat pump heating, spray foam insulation, optimal daylighting [sic] and uses prairie landscaping materials that require little or no maintenance.”
The construction company was proud to point out the RBL had earned “the award for Midwest Construction Award of Merit – Cultural featured in Midwest Construction’s December/January 2011 edition.” SMC has also done work for the Barrington Public Library District, the Huntley Area Public Library District, the Algonquin Area Public Library District, and the Dundee Township Public Library District, and the Byron Public Library in Byron, Illinois.
The RBL features popular collection (think of the Popular Library in Water Works or the Harold Washington Library Center), a computer café, Zen gardens, and a family room with a fireplace. Patrons can reserve movies at home via computer and pick them up 24/7 (twenty-four-hours-a-day/seven-days-a-week) through the Mediabank on an outside wall of the RBL. It looks like a cross between a wall-mounted ATM and a Redbox ® vending machine, and is one of the first such contraptions to be installed at a library in North America.
Programs at the RBL include Family Storytimes and Read to Rover. The Rakow Readers Book Group meets on the fourth Monday every month.
The RBL is open from 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Saturdays, and from 1:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Sundays. Note that the RBL is closed on Fridays. The Drive Thru Window is open the same hours as the library, except it opens one hour earlier than the lobby, at noon, on Sundays. The phone number there is (847) 531-7271.