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 present library building has a total of about 26,000 square feet and shifts the center of the library to the south and wraps new building on three sides thus enlarging the original square. A new northern entrance is provided with new courtyards flanking both sides of the existing building's north elevation. A new western parking lot doubles the number of parking spaces; the main adult reading room is in the south addition; the children's reading room in the east addition; and the expanded non-public workrooms and staff areas are in the west addition.

The Prospect Heights Public Library District collection has grown to include books, DVDs, BluRays, CDs, audiobooks, video games, and more for checkout. 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 with a credit card using ePay. Circulation for the fiscal year (2011-12) was over 232,000. Some of the services offered by the library include computers available for public use—all new in 2011. There are three quiet study rooms which may be used on a first-come, first-served basis for card holders. The lobby walls often display artwork by local artists. Patrons with collections they would like to share with the community may exhibit them in the locked display cases across from the Circulation Desk.

The Library offers copy machines including one color copier, a public fax machine, magnifiers and the Optelec Low Vision Reading Aid which enables patrons to read books and newspapers, sign checks, fill out forms and do any other tasks that require an enlargement of printed materials. Other services include free WiFi access to the Internet, a monthly newsletter mailed to all households in the library district, electronic newsletters highlighting new releases, library programs and more; programs for adults 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.

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