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La Grange Public Library History

La Grange Public Library: A Brief History until 2004

Members of the La Grange Woman's Club first conceived a free public library in our Village. They created a lending library, with a fine of two cents a day on any book held over three weeks.

Steel magnate Andrew Carnegie responded to an appeal for a financial grant. One of Carnegie's lifelong interests was the establishment of free public libraries in a time when there were only a few public libraries in the world. He wrote in 1903 "If the city agrees ... to maintain a free public library at a cost of not less than $1,250 a year, and provides a site for a building, Mr. Carnegie will be pleased to furnish $12,500 to erect a free public library building for La Grange." That building opened on January 10, 1905. Its design incorpo­rated advanced features for the time - steam heat and electric lighting. It was a two-story brick structure with 5,000 square feet of space.

In 1965 the library board determined that a totally new building was needed to meet demand. Described as the "Jewel of the Village," the present building on Cossitt Avenue and LaGrange Road was dedicated on November 2, 1968. Built at a cost of $682,000, the library offered 16,500 square feet of space on two levels. At the dedication, the budget was to exceed $100,000. The twenty parking spaces were increased to 47 in 1975 after the board purchased and demolished an adjacent property.

After the 1991 expansion referendum did not pass the board remodeled the interior extensively in 1993. The lower level with Youth Services and a public Meeting Room was totally remodeled enlarging Youth Services and creating more office space for staff. The spacious MultiPurpose Room was reduced from a capacity of 80 to 40 seats.

The 1968 building was designed with a designed capacity of 35,000 books on the Adult level and 15,000 in the lower Youth Services level. In 2004 adult holdings total 97,506 and children's holdings total 29,884. Over the years since its opening, seating for patrons and other amenities were reduced in favor of the collections. The library had reached the point where literally no more shelving could legally be added and still meet the guidelines under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Library Director Stephen Moskal urged the board to review funding. The board asked for and won a 25% increase in the maximum tax rate on April 1, 2003. The next step was the plan for a new building.

A Long Range Plan, created from resident input, was unveiled in November 2003 with this Mission Statement. “The LaGrange Public Library provides residents of all ages the means to continue learning throughout their lives; to nurture a love of reading; to find, evaluate and utilize information in a variety of formats; and to connect as a community.”

The board and staff realized an entirely new building would be needed to facilitate the plan. A Building Program was completed in January 2004 detailing the service needs. It describes a twenty-first Century, state-of-the-art building providing services and amenities requested by residents. Some of those new services include: larger and more numerous meeting room spaces; more public computers; and wireless Internet access. A Quiet Reading Room for adults and an area for Young Adults are new spaces. Space was also planned for the book and audiovisual collections to grow. The new building would carry on the 100-year Andrew Carnegie legacy - providing literature and culture in LaGrange.
More history to come soon....