A HISTORY OF THE
WAUCONDA AREA PUBLIC LIBRARY
Wauconda Area Library had its beginning in early 1939, when the Wauconda Woman’s Club spent $35 to purchase enough books to fill one shelf at the Wauconda High School Library. Eleanore Herrod, an English teacher and librarian, donated one hour of her time at the end of her teaching schedule each day toward lending out books from this shelf.
As more books were added and donations received, the space at the high school library became inadequate and impractical. In August, 1948, under the leadership of Mary Lueder, the library was moved to upstairs rooms at the Sports Shop on Main Street, and the library became officially known as Wauconda Public Library. Wendell Dickson was President of the Wauconda Woman's Club at this time.
In 1949, about 300 Wauconda residents had library cards. The library owned about 1200 volumes available for readers to borrow.
At about this time, the American Legion Auxiliary presented the library with a Webster's Unabridged Dictionary with a revolving stand; also, for every Wauconda boy killed in World War II, a book as a memorial.
The burden of paying rent was overtaxing the budget of the Woman’s Club. In the spring of 1950, the Village board, under the leadership of its president, Frank Dickson, granted the library a room in the Village Hall. For eight years the library was housed in this one room, until April, 1958, when under the administration of Village President Melvin Stone, it was moved into a front room of the same building.
In the spring of 1950 the Woman’s Club set up separate financial accounts for General Funds and Library Funds.
It was decided upon at that time that half of all fund-raising proceeds should go into the Library Fund. Prior to that time, the library board, consisting of a chairman and three members, were responsible for raising much of the money to buy new books.
Mrs. Charles Haller became chairman of the library in September 1950, donating many hours of her time toward the functioning of the library. Her husband often assisted her with the various duties connected with the library.
In 1954, Mrs. William Risteau, President of the Woman’s Club and also a frequent volunteer at the library, with the help of library board members and some Woman’s Club members, began the task of classifying the library’s books using the Dewey Decimal System. This project took almost a year. By this time, the library owned well over 4,000 volumes. The Illinois State Library assisted in setting up this system and helped to solve difficult problems as they arose.
In 1958, the library board was expanded to seven members and they worked one day a month to continue processing the new books as they were acquired. At that time, the library was open to the public three afternoons each week and Friday evenings. Members of the library board and the Woman’s Club served as the volunteer attendants. New books were purchased regularly, and the Friends of the Library occasionally gave valuable donations.
In 1958, the library owned 5500 volumes and there were 1100 registered patrons.
The Wauconda Woman’s Club maintained tie library for fourteen years. They staffed it, financed it, swept its floors, kept its records, advertised it and enlisted new readers, and provided or secured the money for buying new books. The library was out-growing them. The community was expanding -- the village administration needed more room and the present quarters of the library was no longer adequate. It was then that the Friends of the Library considered a change in management and recommended that a special election be held to give the residents of the township the opportunity to establish a township library.
On June 20, 1962, a referendum passed, creating the Wauconda Township Library. At a special ceremony in September, 1962, Dorothy Mers, President of the Woman’s Club at that time, presented the library board the documents necessary for giving them title to the library. The document from the Wauconda Woman’s Club was titled "A Gift of Deed." At this time, community representatives expressed their appreciation for all that the Wauconda Woman's Club had done through the years to bring the library to this point.
The members of the first library board were Don Badders, Ardith Ellis, Lillian Marsh, Chesney Brooks, Russell Marks, and William Green. Myrtle Fink was appointed as the first Head Librarian.
In 1963 the library moved to 212 Osage Street renting the front part of the building from Mrs. Louise Derer who retained the back half or the building, for her living quarters.
The Friends of the Library have played an important role in the library's history. In a letter to all its members in 1965, the purposes of the organization were listed:
- To maintain an association of persons interested in libraries;
- To focus public attention on the Library
- To stimulate the use of the Library's resources and services;
- To receive and encourage gifts, endowments and bequests to the Library.
- To support and cooperate with the Library in developing its services and facilities for the community.
In 1966, the library owned 8,000 books.
In 1968 the library became a member of Northern Illinois Library System. The library continued to grow, being open six days a week, with a constant increase in number of volumes and also number of patrons as the population of our Village increased until it became necessary to again expand the amount of space. In 1971 the property, including building and adjoining lot was purchased from Mrs. Derer.
In 1971, Mrs. Fink retired and Clara Bogle became librarian. In 1973, with a grant from Revenue Sharing Funds, the garage was torn down and a room addition erected to alleviate crowded conditions. Around this time the hours were increased to 42 hours per week.
In addition to thousands more books and hundreds more borrowers, the library had also added audio-visual materials, records, cassettes, filmstrips, slides, and activities and programs had also increased until it became necessary to again add more space. A mobile classroom was purchased in 1979 and attached to the present building, which increased the floor space by thirty percent. Tentative plans were for this new addition to be used for children's books and programs and audio-visual materials. The staff in 1979 consisted of seven persons.
Wauconda Township Library in 1979 housed approximately 30,000 books, 850 records, 300 cassettes, and subscribed to 97 periodicals and six newspapers.
The library was a member of', the Northern Illinois Library System and van deliveries were made from Rockford four days a week. Any book of information not available in the local library could be requested through the System and thereby procured from another library.
Clara Bogle retired as head librarian May 1, 1979 and Joan Stewart served as acting librarian until August 1, 1979 when David Erickson accepted the position of head librarian. On September 15, 1979 Sharon Nicola was hired as children's and young people's librarian. Erickson and Nicola were the first degreed librarians to serve the library. Meanwhile, the newly added Young People's Room was furnished and materials throughout the building were shifted accordingly. On December l, 1979, a formal grand opening of the new addition was held. Also on this date the library hours were increased to 49 and a half.
A HISTORY OF WAUCONDA AREA LIBRARY
Part II: 1980 - Present
In 1980, the library served a population of 11,708 and owned 30,500 books. There were 4,685 registered cardholders, and the total circulation that year was 61,685. The annual budget was about $125,000.
In January of 1980 the board voted unanimously to start proceedings for a transfer from the Northern Illinois Library System to the North Suburban Library System (NSLS) -- a move which had been considered periodically since the systems were formed in 1967. NSLS was a consortium of 650 academic, public, school, and special libraries in north suburban Cook, Kane, Lake and McHenry Counties. The reasons for this move were mainly to have reciprocal borrowing with our neighboring suburban libraries and to draw on the greater professional expertise offered by the staff and members of NSLS. The request for transfer was met with inordinate resistance by the administration of Northern Illinois Library System which put every obstacle in the way, and forced the action to become a withdrawal from NILS and joining of NSLS instead of a simple transfer. Nevertheless, through the persistence of board president Marian Wight, and by ruling of Kathryn Gesterfield, then the Director of Illinois State Library, the withdrawal/joining became effective July 1, 1980.
By 1980, the library occupied about 3,500 square feet of the house on Osage Street, and it was becoming clear to the library board that the library would not be able to meet the needs of a growing community as long as it was confined to this house. The library board began to investigate alternatives for purchasing land to build a 10,000 square foot facility in the coming years.
In 1982, the library purchased 3.9 acres of land from the school district at a price of $25,000. Located next to the Andrew Cook home on Main Street and within close proximity to Wauconda High School, the new location would ensure easy after-school access for Wauconda area students of all ages -- especially grades 6 through 12.
The library hired Richard E. Thompson in 1984 to draft a building program for a new full-service library facility to be built in two phases, the first phase of which would result in a building of 9,500 square feet. He submitted the first draft of his building program December 10, 1984.
In 1985, Governor James R. Thompson approved a Build Illinois grant in the amount of $530,000 for the construction of a new library facility in Wauconda. State Senator Richard Klemm was instrumental in securing this grant for the library, and Robert "Bob" Jonak, President of the Board of library Trustees at that time, played a key role in the development of the new facility. Click here to see the Daily Herald article about this grant.
Library trustees receiving the Build Illinois grant check in July, 1986 at the Osage Street library, pictured left to right: Paul Mulvaney, Secretary of State and State Librarian Jim Edgar, Board President Robert Jonak, State Senator Richard "Dick" Klemm, Marion Wight, Head Librarian David Erickson, Andy Gebhardt, Carol Kapheim, and Terry Stevig. Trustee Sharon Crivello not pictured here.
The check was presented personally by Secretary of State and State Librarian Jim Edgar on July 9, 1986. Board President Bob Jonak made a moving speech about "joyful expectancy.. .the reality of a worthwhile goal." This was the biggest and the last ceremony to be held in the humble building on Osage Street. Click here
The architectural firm of O'Donnell, Wicklund, Pigozzi, and Peterson (OWPP) was selected to design the new library, Their unique single-story design incorporated the capability of supporting a second floor, in order to keep costs lower for the completion of a larger building at some point in the future when needed because of population growth and technological innovation.
The ground-breaking for the new building was held on August 16, 1986 amid balloons, flags and flowers and rejoicing by all. Contractors Pritscher and Erbach started construction on September 12, 1986 and work progressed rapidly through the fall, an unusually mild winter, and spring.
The $1.3 million budget for the project far exceeded the Build Illinois grant and the library's building reserve funds. To make up the difference, the library borrowed $580,000 in the form of a 20-year mortgage.
In 1986, the library owned about 35,000 books, 2000 audio recordings, and 531 video cassettes. There were 5.347 registered patrons.
By summer 1987, finishing touches on the new building were being completed and during the week of August 24, 1987 the move was made from Osage Street to 801 North Main Street. On Friday, September 4, at 9:45 a.m. the doors were opened to the public, several of whom were waiting to get in. The grand opening of the 9,500 square foot facility took place September 19, 1987, with Representative Klemm cutting the red ribbon and speaking. Board President Bob Jonak and Township Supervisor Gerald Beyer also spoke. The American Legion presented the library with a United States flag, and the library's new Todashi grand piano, donated by George Fenzke in memory of his wife Ruth, was played by Ron Vaughan. More than 500 people either attended the ceremony or toured the library on that day. Messages and flowers were received from all over the state. It was a great day.
In 1987, voters approved a 0.10 percent tax rate increase to increase the library's operating funds, adding $80,000 per year to the library's annual operating budget.
The conversion from a township library to a library district occurred a year later. As a result of this conversion, the library's service area expanded westward to the Fox River, coinciding with the borders of Wauconda Community Unit School District 118. The library's service area now included all or portions of Fox River Valley Gardens (now Port Barrington), Island Lake, Lake Barrington, Lakemoor, Volo, and Wauconda.
In 1989, the library celebrated its 50th anniversary.
In 1990, the library served a population of 16,528 and owned 40,000 books, 1,900 video recordings, and 3,400 audio recordings. There were 9,570 registered cardholders, and the total circulation that year was 141,623. The library owned three computers - two for public use and one for staff. Annual expenditures totaled $595,181.
After serving as Head Librarian for thirteen years, David Erickson retired in March, 1992.
In April, 1992, Tom Kern was hired for the job of Library Director. He had earned his Master of Library Science degree at the University of Chicago. He had worked in technical services at the main libraries at the University of Virginia and Northwestern University, and had served as Office Manager at Northwestern University's Transportation Library, Business Information Specialist at Rolling Meadows Library and as Reference Coordinator at Skokie Public Library.
In September, 1992, the first issue of Focus, a 4-page newsletter promoting library services and events, was published and mailed to every household and business in the district.
During the next three years, some important improvements were made to library services, including the addition of an online catalog and circulation system (SLiMS), many new library furnishings, expansion of adult and children's programming, and substantial improvements to the video and music CD collection. Library usage nearly doubled during this period and it became clear to library staff and patrons that a larger facility was needed in order to accommodate the needs of the fast-growing community.
In 1995, Tom Kern drafted a building program for expanding and remodeling the existing facility. Using portions of Dick Thompson's building program from 1984 as a starting point, Mr. Kern drafted a new document that would serve as the basis for the architectural design of a library facility capable of meeting the needs of a rapidly growing community for the next twenty years.
The $250,000 construction grant was awarded by Secretary of State George Ryan in June, 1996, and construction on the new building began two months later.
While at its temporary location, and in preparation for moving into the new facility, the library's automation system migrated from SLiMS to Dynix Classic, a much more powerful integrated library system (ILS) that set the standard for libraries this size.
In order to expedite construction and avoid the liability, headaches and extra costs of conducting business in the midst of a construction zone, the library moved nearly all of its contents into what had been the Ben Franklin on Liberty Street (Hwy 176), where it remained fully in operation until early August, 1997, when everything was moved into the new library building.
The new 27,500 square foot facility opened to the public August 25,1997.
Also in August, 1997, a drive-up book return was installed in the parking lot at Cotton Creek School in Island Lake, enabling library patrons to return library materials more conveniently.
The grand opening of the new library was celebrated September 28, 1997. The weather cooperated by providing a beautiful autumn day for the special occasion, and hundreds of people attended. Festivities included live music, library tours, an architectural contest for children, door prizes, face painting, a storyteller, crafts, a balloon-sculpting clown, a silent auction, and more.
Library trustees cut the ribbon at the library's Grand Opening, September 28, 1997. Pictured left to right: Bob Jonak, Carol Kapheim, Terry Stevig, Joanne Miller, Kathie Carr, and Peggy Whitman.
The library received the prestigious Distinguished Building Award in September,1998, from the Chicago chapter of the American Institute of Architects. At AIA's annual awards celebration at Navy Pier in Chicago, the award was presented to library representatives Bob Jonak, Terry Stevig, and Tom Kern, OWPP architects Bjorn Hallson (the primary architect), Bob Hunter, and Geoff Walters, and to Tom Featherstone (Brown and Associates). Other Distinguished Building Award recipients included Symphony Center, the Ricahard B. Ogilvie Transportation Center, the Elmhurst Art Museum, the Lake Forest City Hall, and more. The award was announced with the following commentary:
"Ten years after it was built, Wauconda's single-story library was ready for its planned second floor expansion. Program needs had grown even more than anticipated, however, so the new construction totally envelopes the original building, which had been designed by the same architects. The back of the library faces a protected wetland; patrons enjoy views through glass curtainwalls in the stack areas and horizontal bands of windows in the reading rooms. The jurors praised the building's lively, animated quality."
Also in 1998, the library's new Children's Services area was featured in a photographic exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago's Architecture and Design section as one of six notable public children's spaces in the Chicago area.
In the year 2000, the library served a population of 21,625 and owned 79,400 books, 7,000 video recordings, and 10,600 audio recordings. There were 16,332 registered cardholders, and the total circulation that year was 337,138. The library owned 52 computers -- 26 for public use and 26 for staff use. Annual expenditures totaled $1,658,420.
By early 2000, it had become clear that the library needed more funding for library operations in order to meet the growing needs of a rapidly growing community and in order to utilize the new facility more effectively by hiring necessary staff and keeping up with the latest in library and information technology.
In November, 2000 -- on the same ballot that included election of President of the United States -- a referendum that would increase the library's operating fund tax rate by 0.05 percent failed by only 19 votes.
In April, 2001, voters approved by a healthy margin a .05 percent tax rate increase for the library's operating funds.
In 2002, the library added the IPAC (Integrated Public Access Catalog) module to the existing Dynix system, enabling users to access the library's catalog via the Internet.
In 2003, the library installed its first self-checkout station, allowing patrons to check out materials themselves.
in 2004, the library established a community website, www.waucondaarea.info.
The Wauconda Area Library was named Library of the Year in March, 2005, by the North Suburban Library System (NSLS). The NSLS announcement stated, "The Library of the Year Award is presented to one library in NSLS in recognition of its contributions to the development of the NSLS library community. The Wauconda Area Public Library District has won this award because, while it has long been a good example in the community, this year the library has taken its unique mix of community focus, creativity, and collaboration to the next level of service excellence. The Wauconda Area Public Library District is 'the little library that DOES!' The staff and administration are active contributors to system-wide and statewide projects." The award was presented at the NSLS Annual Awards Dinner, attended by 350-plus library officials representing all types of libraries in the north suburban area, including the board and most of the staff of the Wauconda Area Library.
That same year, the library added in a new teen area, known as "The Zone," with teen-oriented books, magazines, and multimedia materials, including video games for checkout. .
Also in 2008, the library increased its hour of operation by being open on Sundays throughout the summer. The library is now open every day of the year except for several major holidays.
Library Director Tom Kern spoke as Guest of Honor at the 80th Anniversary Luncheon of the Wauconda Woman's Club September 8, 2009. On behalf of the library board and staff, he thanked the Club for all they had done for the library through the 70 years since they had founded the library in 1939.
In 2010, the library served a population of 27,246 and owned 113,000 books, 16,200 video recordings, and 12,500 audio recordings. There were 21,000 registered cardholders, and the total circulation that year was 663,281. The library owned 93 computers -- 54 for public use and 39 for staff use. Annual expenditures totaled $2,991,563.
In January, 2010, the library facilitated a re-organization of the Friends of the Library. Since the late 1990s, the leadership of the Friends had dwindled to just a few hard-working volunteers who managed to keep the book sales up and running each year. With a bank balance of more than $25,000, they needed to establish a board with officers and committees, and they needed to acquire 501-c-3 status as a charity organization. By March, 2010, the Friends had elected a Board of Directors and all four officers (Liz Harrington, President; Mike Doehler, Vice President; Cindy Oakley, Treasurer; and Diane Boothby, Secretary). Four committees had also been established, each with a chairperson and at least two members.
In early 2011, the North Suburban Library System (NSLS), of which the Wauconda Area Library was a member, was nearly shut down by the lack of state funding. Everything but the most essential services - notably, the interlibrary loan delivery system - was cut. Other library systems in Illinois, facing the same budgetary issues, pooled resources with NSLS on July 1, 2011, to create RAILS: the Reaching Across Illinois Library System. RAILS now serves approximately 1300 private, public, school, and university library members, which have a total of more than 4200 library facilities in a 27,000 square mile area.
In April, 2011, the library selected Polaris as its new Integrated Library System (ILS) vendor, and this new automation system went "live" October 8, 2011. The library's computer system was also upgraded to Windows 7 early that fall, and all of the Microsoft Office applications were upgraded to the latest versions.
On April 7, 2012 - the day before Easter - the Friends of the Library co-sponsored with Star Runners (Wauconda) the first annual Bunny Hop 4-Mile Run / 2-Mile Walk. The weather was magnificent that morning, and more than 650 people attended the community event, including cheerleaders, beauty queens, the Mayor of Wauconda (Mark Knigge), and more than 400 runners.
In July, 2012, the library began the monumental project of converting its entire collection from a barcode-based identification system to a Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) system. 3M had been selected as the vendor, and RFID tags were manually installed on each of the 148,000 items in the library's collection of books, CDs, and DVDs. Thanks to the hard work of dozens of dedicated volunteers and staff members, the project was completed in less than eight weeks. New RFID security gates were installed September 19, at which point the conversion to the new system was complete. This new system would make self-checkout services much more user-friendly, and would enable the automation of the checking in and sorting of materials in the future.
In September, 2012, the Friends of the Library donated $21,509 to the library for the purchase of a Transit Connect van from Victor Ford. The van was purchased that month. A full-vehicle graphics wrap was designed and installed in November, at which point the van was ready for service.
In November, 2012, new drive-up book returns were installed at the village halls of Island Lake and Volo. The new library van began servicing these on a daily basis December 10, 2012.
During the same month, two new self-checkout stations -- one at the main checkout desk on the upper level and one next to the elevator downstairs in Children's Services -- were made available. By January, 2013, library patrons were using these new stations to check out more than 13,000 items per month.
On March 30, 2013 the Friends' Second Annual Wauconda Bunny Hop far surpassed the 2012 Bunny Hop in the number of participants and the funds raised. The 2013 Hop netted more than $13,000 ($3000 more than th eprevious year) and 700 people attended as participants, volunteers, or public service staff. There were 580 registered runners and walkers. Led by Co-President Peggy Shulha, the Friends did an outstanding job in every respect. The dozens of business sponsors contributed $7400 in cash and hundreds of dollars in the form of prizes and services.
On May 6, 2013, Wauconda Area Library became the first library in Illinois to add 3M Cloud Library ebooks to its online catalog. The library’s catalog was no longer just for finding library materials, but could now be used by the public to check out eBooks from the catalog itself for immediate use on their PCs, laptops, tablets, e-readers, or smart phones. This marked the culmination of the library’s technology plan for making access to all circulating library items – both print and digital – as user-friendly as possible, whether the user is in the library or is using the library remotely via the Internet.
In early September, 2013, a five-bin automated materials handling system was installed in the Circulation Services work room, along with a new self-service book return, maximizing the benefit of the library's new RFID system. This new system streamlines the return of library materials, ensuring faster, more accurate processing and return to the shelves, the option for patrons to a receipt for their returns, and eliminates much of the repetitive physical labor required without the new equipment.
On September 24, 2013, the library switched on its new full-color digital LED sign located near the driveway entrance on Main Street, funded entirely by the Friends of the Library. “What our Friends have done is nothing less than monumental,” library Director Tom Kern said. “This new high-tech sign offers the library a very effective means of informing anyone who drives past about library events and services that they might otherwise not have known about. At the same time, it sends the message that this library is up to date with the latest technology — an important message for public libraries to be sending in this new age of easy-access digital resources for information and entertainment. We are very grateful to the Friends of the Library. Without their funding, the library would not have been able to purchase this sign.” He noted that the sign will also be used to promote Friends events and book sales throughout the year.
The Library Renovation
In early 2014, the library hired Product Architecture + Design to come up with a master plan for updating and making improvements to the facility, based on new trends in library usage. The library had started showing its age not only in wear and tear but in how it served the community. In May, 2014, the Board of Library Trustees approved a $2,063,000 plan for updating the existing facility’s interior and making many important improvements. This renovation project not only brought the library’s interior up to date and made it look new again, but it set the stage for providing outstanding library services for the Wauconda Area community well into the future.
The library borrowed $1.2 million in the form of a low-interest (2.181%) debt certificate to be paid back over a 10-year period using general funds. The rest of the money came from the library’s Special Reserve Fund (about $725,000) and grant funds. The library received a $125,000 Live and Learn Construction Grant for this project from Secretary of State and State Librarian Jesse White. There was no expansion in the size of the building, and no special bond was issued that would result in a tax increase. In fact, the existing 20-year building bond from 1996 expired in 2015, and library district taxpayers saw a decrease in the library's tax rate.
Library trustees after cutting the ribbon at the library's Grand Re-Opening, April 18, 2015. Pictured left to right: Mary Hultquist, Gina Jefson, William Pankey, Ernie Kosty, Deb Hughes (standing), Joanne Miller, and Terry Stevig. Library Director Tom Kern at far right is holding a letter of congratulations from Illinois State Comptroller Leslie Munger, presented at the ceremony.
The library's Grand Re-Opening Celebration of April 18, 2015, started with a well attended ribbon cutting ceremony sponsored by the Wauconda Area Chamber of Commerce. More than 600 people attended the various festivities that showed off the "new" library throughout that exceptionally beautiful spring day. The library's new childrens' area, aptly called "Kid City", proved to be the star of the show, boasting loads of ingenious new interactive displays, including an airplane cockpit with 100 switches, virtual windows, and a slide for exiting quickly. The library was the first in the state to provide public access to 7-foot touch screen monitors from TouchIT Technologies, not only in Kid City but in the new teen area, as well, thanks to a generous donation from the Friends of the Library.
For a series of architectural photographs taken just after the renovation, please click here.
In October, 2015, the library began offering patrons free access to Hoopla, an online streaming service for public libraries that offers immediate online access to hundreds of thousands of movies, full music albums, audiobooks and more, Library patrons may use their web browser or mobile device to use Hoopla, and content is always available without waitlists.
In February, 2016, the library launched its new website that, in keeping with the spirit of the renovation of the facility and the library organization itself, is designed to better serve a broader user group. The new website is not only much faster, but it works especially well with mobile devices such as smart phones and tablets.
On June 1, 2016, the library ended its 3M Cloud library service and launched a new stand-alone OverDrive, providing user-friendly access to ebooks and audiobooks, for downloading or streaming. OverDrive is particularly well suited for mobile devices, as well as PCs and laptop computers.
In October 2017, the library conducted a community-wide survey asking for patron input on the future direction of the library. Over 2,000 surveys were completed. Utilizing feedback from the survey, the library underwent a renovation of the exterior including the stairs and front plaza in 2018-2019.
In October of 2019 Library Director Tom Kern retired after over 27 years of dedicated service. The Board of Trustees adopted a resolution honoring his many years of service. Elizabeth Greenup was appointed as the Interim Director as the Board prepares their Director search in the coming months.