Lisle Library celebrates 50 years of learning and community
Throughout its 50 years of service to the community, the Lisle Library has been a consistent source for learning, entertainment and self-improvement.
The library grew from an idea floated by the Lisle Woman's Club to what it is today, the hub of its community.
"Fifty years ago, a small group of women recognized the need for our library and worked tirelessly to make it a reality," library Director Katharine Seelig said. "We want to celebrate their efforts and the commitment we have to meeting the needs of our patrons today and in the future."
Half a century ago, the Lisle Woman's Club members wanted to create a local library primarily to serve the youth of its community.
"We asked members for donated books," said longtime member Barbara Roake. "We were the most optimistic group of women you have ever known. At first, we intended on having a children's library for Lisle students, and it got a little out of hand and grew from there."
Walker Gamble, who would go on to serve as Lisle mayor, let the group use a room in the basement of a building at 4542 Main St. in downtown, which today is The Nook store. Access was through a door facing Main Street and down a flight of stairs. The Lisle Police Department was across the hall.
The ladies and their husbands painted the room, lent furniture, built metal book shelves and procured donations of children's books.
"Members Helen Aldee and Jean Koba sorted and displayed books," said Roake, who identifies herself as the utmost reader in the world.
"What started the whole thing is Mary Custar Bohm and I had junior high students in Lisle schools that did not have a library," Roake said. "We had to take our children to Downers Grove or Naperville, which was inconvenient."
The state library system informed club members that to be considered a library and receive book loans from the state, the group needed a referendum to create a library district. A successful vote also would allow the library continued growth by becoming an autonomous taxing district.
"Every organization in Lisle got behind us and the cooperation was fantastic," Roake said.
On April 12, 1964, the library opened and club member Nancy Wilson was its first volunteer librarian. She remembers checking out 10 to 12 books a week to patrons, and the library continued to grow.
In the referendum on Dec. 11, 1965, voters approved establishing the Lisle Library District and, in the process, created a lasting allegiance with the Lisle Woman's Club.
"We took out tax-anticipation warrants until the money started coming in," Wilson said. "We wanted our own library for the convenience of our patrons."
The library moved into a store front at 4700 Main St., the current Lisle Fox Restaurant, and hired its first paid professional librarian, Jane Belon Shaw. Both Wilson and Roake won election to the first library board of trustees. Roake went on to serve for 31 years and Wilson for 23.
Records indicate that in December 1967 the library circulated 1,383 items and added 425 new items, compared to December 2014 when it circulated 39,529 items and added 1,952 new physical materials and 481 new digital materials, Seelig said.
In need of a larger space in 1968, the library moved to a building at 1017 Front St. that existed on the lot where today a new structure houses Evviva Bar and Eatery. In 1981, the library constructed its own building at its present location, 777 Front St.
Since then, the library's building has undergone both a large addition and a renovation, said Seelig, who started her long Lisle library career later that same year as director of the reference department.
"At that time there was one desk for public service and one desk behind the scenes for cataloging and other preparation tasks," Seelig said. Online searching was a database called Dialog and used a modem connection in the pre-Internet days.
Today, the library has more than 40 reference databases available to patrons online, Seelig said. A Connection Desk is staffed to help patrons download eBooks and use tablets.
"The library today is very diversified," Roake said. "With an original art gallery, children's section, computers and an area for teenagers on the main floor, it has worked wonders in our community."
"I know we have a very good library," Wilson said.
The library launched its Seed Library in 2014, making it the first public library in the area to lend open-pollinated seeds, according to Seelig. It offers Seed Library Orientation classes.
Members may sign up for VIP Text Service to stay connected to what's happening at the library, or request a Tech Tutor for one-to-one help on a technology topic of their choice. A Low-Vision Reader is a resource for anyone who needs something magnified. The Home Delivery program serves patrons who physically cannot come to the facilities, and literacy resources helps patrons who wish to learn or improve their English skills.
"The Lisle Library has public meeting and collaboration space, access to materials on a variety of subjects, remote access to databases, and access to digital resources that might be beyond the reach of an individual patron," Seelig said.
"We want to celebrate both the efforts of those who started the library and the commitment we have to meeting the needs of our patrons today and in the future."
Anniversary funSome things to know about Lisle Library's 50th anniversary celebration:
• Golden Tickets are hidden in materials throughout the library. Turn one in at the circulation service desk for a prize.
• Share your Lisle Library District memories or photos at lislelibrary.org to be part of its anniversary Memory Book. Forms are available at the circulation services desk and on the website.
• For a week starting Saturday, April 18, the library will celebrate National Library Week by hosting Honorary Librarians from the community. Check out who might be volunteering the day you visit the library.