'Visionary' Arlington Heights library leader David Unumb dies at 89

  • David Unumb

    David Unumb

By Eileen O. Daday
Daily Herald correspondent
Updated 3/2/2022 1:45 PM

David Unumb served more than 20 years on the Arlington Heights Memorial Library board, overseeing two major renovation projects, hiring three executive directors and helping to lead its building, personnel and long-range planning committees.

Yet, colleagues point to advocacy for the library expanding services beyond lending books, and further into the community, as his lasting legacy.


Unumb, a longtime Arlington Heights resident, passed away Feb. 22. He was 89.

"David understood that the library needed to provide services, resources and experiences for the community and not just be book driven," said Deb Smart, a library board member and former president. "He was a visionary in that way."

Unumb was first elected to the library board in 1983, and served the next eight years, including as president from 1989 to 1991.

He rejoined the board in 1994 for one year, just as Arlington Heights residents approved an $8.9 million plan that included a 56,000-square-foot addition and renovation of the original facility.

Unumb was reelected in 2005 and served two more terms before retiring in 2016. It was during those years that the library would reinvent itself to meet the community's changing needs. The work included a renovation and reorganization project that saw the library building nearly completely gutted.

Current board President Greg Zyck joined the panel in 2013 and, along with Smart, considered Unumb a mentor.

"He was soft-spoken, but it was evident from the start that his words came with a love for the library and with incredible knowledge," Zyck said.

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Unumb came to the board as a tenured professor of communication media and theater at Northeastern University. Previously, he had held professorships at Kent State, Brown and Boston universities.

"He was a real gentleman," Smart added, "just a class act"

Unumb is survived by his sons David (Sharon) and Daniel (Lorri), daughter Caitlin, as well as seven grandchildren and one great-grandson.

Services were held privately.

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