Library History

From Glencoe Public Library | Centennial Celebration

  • An copy of our commemorative history of the library, "Our First 100 Years," is available here.
  • A description of the current Library building as it opened in 1941, provided by Alfred P. Allen and Maurice Webster (architects) in February of 1940, is available here.
  • An article about the building of the current Library titled "Site and Foresight," written by Glencoe Librarian Helen Beckwith, circa 1940, is available here.
  • An article describing the building of the current Library, written by Helen Beckwith in 1942, is available here.
  • A history of the Library published in "Seventy-Five Years of Glencoe History" (Glencoe Historical Society) is available here.

The Glencoe Public Library was organized in 1909 with a nucleus of books from the Woman’s Library Club, the Glencoe School, and the Congregational Church. It opened in one room of the old Central School with one of the teachers, Miss Sarah Hammond, daughter of a Glencoe founder, acting as the first librarian. Miss Hammond served as Librarian until 1935, and the second floor assembly room in the present building was named for her.

In 1912, the Library was housed on the second floor of the Old Village Hall on Vernon Avenue. In 1929, it moved to the Hawthorne School at the corner of Greenleaf and Hazel Avenues and remained there until 1941 when it was moved to its present location. The Hawthorne School building had been built originally for the Woman’s Library Club and is now a private residence.

The site of the present Library building and Village Hall was purchased in 1917 from William H. Johnson for $54,900.00 which was borrowed upon the personal guarantee of 169 Glencoe residents. A tax had been approved by the Village in 1917, serving to pay back the loan and to provide other library facilities.

The Library Board in 1938 began the task of planning the present building and having it constructed on the Johnson property. Funds from the original 1917 levy plus an additional $35,500.00 bond issue were used for the building and furnishings. William H. Johnson gave an additional bequest, which was used for furnishings in the main reading room named in his honor. On July 13, 1941, the new building was opened to the public.

The south portion of the Johnson property was held in trust by the Library Board until a determination was made of how this property could be used best for the community. In 1954, it was given to the Village as a site for the present Village Hall.

In 1962, The Friends of the Glencoe Public Library was formed by a group of dedicated Village residents. The Friends cooperate with the Library Board in encouraging the use of the Library and its services. Contributions given to the Friends are administered by a Friends Board and given to the Library as gifts for special projects such as the remodeling and refurnishing of the Children’s Room, the Hammond Room and the Friends Room, and for the purchase of audiovisual equipment.

In 1966, the Glencoe Public Library became a charter member of the North Suburban Library System (NSLS), one of 18 such systems in Illinois. There are 44 member public libraries in the NSLS along with numerous academic, school, and special libraries which enjoy affiliate status. The NSLS provides its member libraries with these services: Blind & Physically Handicapped Service (BPH), Central Serials Service (CSS), Interlibrary Loan Service (ILS), Reciprocal Borrowing Program (RBP), Suburban Audio Visual Service (SAVS), and System Reference Service (SRS). The NSLS serves as a facilitator of cooperative library services and development, maintains a library of professional materials, and provides daily van delivery and pick-up service.

On March 12, 1973, Thomas A. Forte assumed the administrative duties of the Library. He was preceded by Miss Sarah Hammond, Librarian from 1909 to 1935; Miss Helen Beckwith, 1935 to 1960; Mr. Milimir Drazic, 1960 to 1966; Miss Lotta R. Stern, 1966 to 1973.

In July 1975, the Library initiated its computerized circulation system as a charter member of the Cooperative Computerized Circulation System of the North Suburban Library System (NSLS/CCCS). This cooperative group has grown and expanded and now comprises 25 member libraries known as the Cooperative Computer Services (CCS) which owns and shares the mainframe hardware of the computer system and administers its operation. It also maintains a common bibliographic database with more than 600,000 unique titles.

The Library continues to offer a variety of materials, services, and resources. The Library’s collection includes approximately 90,000 books, audio and video cassettes, compact discs, and 250 periodical titles including periodical holdings of back issues on microfiche. It has a substantial reference collection and many leading business and financial services. It provides a range of services and programs for children and adults. It strives to meet all requests for materials and information with its own resources and also through the library network.

In 1986, the Library initiated a newsletter, EXCERPTS, which is published and mailed to Glencoe households three times a year.

In 1989 the Library Board adopted a change in the terms of its trustees from six years to four years. Henceforth, trustees would be permitted to run for reelection.

In the early fall of 1989 a citizen survey was conducted: a telephone survey by the firm of Elrick & Lavidge, Inc. along with a written survey available for patrons at the Library.

In 1989 a Long-Range Plan was completed. The Long-Range Plan 1990-1994 was adopted by the Library Board on February 21, 1990.

In 1989 the Library Board began to plan for a major renovation to meet the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In the fall of 1991 the Board engaged the services of R. Scott Javore & Associates, Ltd. of Glencoe for the architectural design. Construction began in March 1993. The renovation project was completed in April 1994. A Grand Opening Concert was held on Sunday, April 10, featuring the Chicago Symphony Chamber Players.

On April 20, 1994 Mr. Forte informed the Library Board of his intention to retire in November after his replacement would be hired.

On December 15, 1994, Peggy Hamil became the sixth director of the Glencoe Public Library.

In the summer of 1996, using Federal and State grant funds, the library installed a Local Area Network (LAN) to provide electronic resources directly to patrons. In January 1997, the Library introduced Internet access for the public.

Beginning in 1998, the Friends of the Glencoe Public Library encouraged the Library Board to undertake an expansion of the building, which resulted in a construction project that added approximately 1,000 square feet to each floor of the building. On March 11, 2001, the Library had an Open House to introduce patrons to the new pre-school area on the second floor; the new Young Adult/Media Room on the main floor; and the Friends’ Used Book Sale room on the lower level.

In April, 2001, the Library held a reception to name the Ralph and Lois Silver Business Information Center resulting from their $50,000 contribution, and to name the Thomas A. Forte Reference Room in honor of his 21 years of service as executive director.

From 2001 – 2003, the Library received several donations to enhance landscaping. An anonymous donor contributed over $65,000 to create a reading garden on the east side of the library and a comprehensive landscaping plan, which included a fountain in front of the library. An additional contribution by the North Shore Garden Club was combined with the anonymous donor’s donation to create a second bluestone patio with furniture. The Friends of the Library donated $51,000 to complete the landscaping in 2003.

A Facilities Study commissioned in 2005 resulted in major upgrades to the library building in 2006: the bay window in the Johnson Room was restored; the HVAC system was studied and all air conditioning units dating from the 1970’s were replaced and an economizer system was installed to balance the various systems; through a combination of funding from the Illinois Clean Energy Foundation, the Friends of the Glencoe Public Library, and regular library revenue, the fluorescent lighting was upgraded to reduce energy consumption and to improve the quality of light throughout the entire building.

Continuing through 2009, the Library Board of Trustees enhanced library facilities and made them more accessible and safe by replacing the front sidewalks with pavers, underneath which heated tubes melt snowfall, rebuilding the sloping sidewalks with stairs, and adding an additional ramp for the disabled. The entrance brickwork was cleaned and tuckpointed and the building trim was repainted in more authentic colors, as recommended by the preservationist who performed the Facilities Study. The fanlight and sidelights surrounding the entrance were restored with the original leadwork and the front door was refurbished. The Friends of the Glencoe Public Library donated $50,000 to help with this project.

A memorial donation underwrote the construction of the David Morton Stein Computer Center dedicated on April 11, 2009, to provide additional computer workstations for children and parents. Favorite children’s literary quotes were stenciled on walls throughout the children’s department.