Des Plaines Public Library
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The construction of a library in Des Plaines was first proposed in 1896, but was defeated by a vote of 142 to 50. In 1904, a subscription library called the Tabard Inn was established in F.C. Walton’s drugstore on Ellinwood Street in Des Plaines, Illinois, with F.C. Walton himself paying for most of the service, and in April 1905, another proposition to establish a Free Public Library finally carried by a majority vote. Prior to approval of the library proposition, Dr. Clarence A. Earle corresponded with philanthropist Andrew Carnegie to convince him to fund the building of a library, resulting in a $5,000.00 construction grant. The first Library Board meeting was held on May 2, 1906, in the Village Hall located at the corner of Ellinwood and Lee Streets in Des Plaines, Illinois.
The first Des Plaines Public Library building was constructed on the corner of Miner Street and Graceland Avenue, and was dedicated on October 5, 1907. Mrs. Sarah Weeks served as the first librarian, receiving a salary of $10 per month and remaining in the position until 1915. The library’s initial collection consisted of 725 books, and business hours were Tuesday and Saturday from 3 to 5 and 7 to 9 p.m.
The first library building served the residents of Des Plaines for nearly 30 years. In 1936, the city council announced a plan to construct a new municipal building on the library site. The project received financing through the WPA. During construction of the new city hall and municipal building, the library took up residence on the first floor of the failed Des Plaines State Bank. Today, the site is once again a bank, at the corner of Lee/Mannheim and Ellinwood Streets. The new Municipal Building was dedicated on June 29, 1937. The building housed the library in the west wing, City Hall in the center, and a fire station in the east wing. The library featured 7,000 books and 1,500 feet (460 m) of shelving. The modern equipment included slant-top tables for the children, indirect lighting, and angled racks to display periodicals. Special features included an office for the librarian and headquarters for the Girl Scouts of the USA. In 1951 a children’s room was opened in the basement. With Des Plaines more than tripling in population between 1937 and 1958, the library outgrew its quarters at city hall.
In 1957, ground was broken for a new 16,000-square-foot (1,500 m2) library at the corner of Thacker Street and Graceland Avenue. The Colonial Williamsburg-style building was dedicated on November 2, 1958. The municipal building that once housed the library, City Hall and fire station was demolished in the mid 1970s to make way for a new civic complex. However, the population of Des Plaines nearly doubled in the 1960s. Again, the library found itself short of space. A small addition to the library was built in 1970 to house the bookmobile and provide some staff office space. Construction of another addition, this one being 20,700 square feet (1,920 m2), began in 1973. Its completion in 1974 resulted in a near doubling of the size of the library. On June 19, 1969, the library bookmobile began biweekly service to each of the city’s neighborhoods, in an effort to meet the needs of the constantly expanding population.
By 1990, the Colonial Williamsburg-style library could no longer meet the spatial or technological needs of the community. The bookmobile was replaced after nearly 20 years of service by a new Mobile Library. The Mobile Library makes over forty stops in its two week rotation. In addition to neighborhood stops, it visits preschools, elementary schools and the senior centers, so this new Mobile Library was crucial to providing much-needed community outreach. Then, in May 1997, Library Board President John Burke met with Mayor Paul Jung to discuss the possibility of a new library becoming an anchor for the downtown redevelopment project. The City Council, the Library Board of Trustees, the Economic Development Commission, and the developer spent the next 18 months working out the details of making the new library a reality.
Ground was broken for the Plaines Town Center project on July 4, 1998. Ground was broken for the new library on April 15, 1999. The 82,000-square-foot (7,600 m2) library building was designed by Lohan and Associates and constructed by Leopardo Construction. The approximate dimensions of the building are 152’-4" feet wide, 150’-8" feet deep, and 68 feet (21 m) tall. The north face of the building features aluminum accent panels in aged or patina copper with relief work representing open books. Within the bands, one can find "Des Plaines Library" spelled out in binary code. The library opened its doors to the public on August 14th, 2000, and the grand opening celebration took place September 24th, 2000. The current library is centrally located in the downtown area of Des Plaines, which has seen a regrowth in the past several years. The library has four floors and annually loans over one million items to library patrons. The library's collections hold over a quarter of a million books at any one time. The Des Plaines Public Library celebrated its Centennial anniversary in the year 2007, with a number of special events, promotions and exhibits.
The current Des Plaines Public Library is located at:
- 1501 Ellinwood Street
- Des Plaines, IL 60016
Library hours are: 9 am to 9 pm—Monday through Friday, 9 am to 5 pm—Saturday, 1 to 5 pm—Sunday.
- Mayer, Richard. "100 Years In Heart Of Community." Des Plaines Journal, October 3-8, 2007.
- Schumacher, Stefan. "Succeeding Expectations." Des Plaines Journal, October 3-8, 2007.
- "Library's Big Bash Sunday." Des Plaines Journal, October 3-8, 2007.