History of the Prospect Heights Public Library

It was due to the dedicated efforts of the newly formed Prospect Heights Woman's Club in 1955 that the Prospect Heights Public Library District was formed. In the beginning, the Woman's Club started a book drive which resulted in 3,500 books being donated by residents of the community and picked up by the Girl and Boy Scouts. Library headquarters were set up in a portion of one of the real estate offices in Prospect Heights which further demonstrated the cooperative spirit of businessmen and home-owners alike.

Then came the work of processing the books. During every step, American Library Association standards were met. Contributions from local organizations such as the Prospect Heights Improvement Association, the P.T.A., the Lion's Club, the Little League, the Prospect Heights Volunteer Fire Department, as well as individual families, helped the group purchase needed shelves and card files.

On June 11, 1956 applications for library cards began. Within two weeks, there were 609 registered borrowers. On June 19, the library opened for business - just four months following its inception! The library was located in a store generously donated by a Prospect Heights builder. 6,000 books had been in circulation, indicating the tremendous need now being filled by the library.

The Prospect Heights Woman's Club assumed the financial burdens of the library the first year, even to the extent of signing a lease pledging $1,200 yearly rent payments. This was a great financial strain on the 144 club members, and it also meant that no money was available for the purchase of new books. Their responsibility was lessened in May of 1957 when citizens of the area voted for a legal library district. There would now be a permanent library in Prospect Heights. At the end of 1957, there were 2100 registered borrowers at the Prospect Heights Public Library District, and the circulation for that fiscal year (1956-57) was 18,532.

The move to a permanent building was made in 1972 with the completion of a 13,500 square foot structure with an entrance facing Elm Street. In the 1980's with the growth in size of the collection and the number of patrons served, the Board had a dream to improve the services of the library and the search for a solution began. In the Fall of 1989 a referendum was approved by the Library District community allowing the sale of bonds to finance the new addition and renovation. A $250,000 Library Services Construction Act Grant was obtained and construction of the $2.7 million project began on March 17, 1990. The construction was completed in 1991 and more than doubled the Library in size to 26,000 square feet.

Following the 1991 addition, the Library has had a number of smaller projects and renovations. It updated its lighting, carpet, furnishings and technology in 2008.  In 2012, the Library installed a de-icing system by the front entrance and built a drive-up book return system.  The staff lounge and Lusk Room were redecorated in 2013 and the lobby restrooms were fully renovated in 2016.  The Library’s roof and HVAC system were replaced with energy efficient alternatives in 2014.  The Library met a long term goal in 2017 by building an auxiliary parking lot on adjacent property, increasing parking capacity to 100 spaces.  In 2018, the Library re-milled the east and west parking lots, expanded the de-icing system, and reorganized the electrical room to better accommodate future projects.

In February of 2019, the Library Board of Trustees approved a new Long Range Strategic Plan, one that was based on both extensive staff and patron feedback. One of the main goals of the new plan is to make the Library’s building and grounds more modern, inviting, and accessible. To achieve this, the Board decided the best course of action was to undertake a comprehensive interior renovation of the current building. The Library partnered with Product Architecture & Design, a Chicago based architectural firm that has worked with dozens of libraries in the area, to create a plan for the renovation. The final plan was approved in November, 2019, with construction set to begin in September, 2020.

The Prospect Heights Public Library District collection has grown to include books, DVDs, Blu-rays, CDs, audiobooks, and video games for checkout, as well as less traditional items such as Roku sticks, S.T.E.M kits, bike locks, and much more in the ever growing Library of Things collection. We also offer patrons the ability to download audiobooks, eBooks, music, videos, and more directly onto their computers, tablets, or smartphones. Patrons can use the Library’s self-checkout for most materials and have the ability to review their accounts online and renew, place, cancel, and suspend holds from home. They can also pay fines and fees online. There are three quiet study rooms available on a first-come, first-served basis for card holders. The lobby walls often display artwork by local artists and display cases exhibiting patron collectibles.

The Library offers copy machines including one color copier and a public fax machine. We offer several different services in our Digital Media Lab, such as digitizing old media formats and a Silhouette Cameo cutting machine. Other services include 3D printing, Wi-Fi access to the Internet, a monthly newsletter mailed to all households in the library district, electronic newsletters highlighting new releases, library programs and more. The Library has programs for adults, younger adults (our 20/30 somethings programs), teens, and children that include story times, reading clubs, crafts, senior programs, instructional seminars, book discussion groups, and live performances.

Also available to assist patrons in locating information and materials are numerous computerized reference products, many available to PHPL cardholders via the Library’s website: www.phpl.info.

About the Library