History of the Matteson Public Library – How It All Started
The Beginning – 1961
The Matteson Public Library opened its doors to the public August 7, 1961 at 21504 MainStreet, and was open about 14 hours per week.
The citizens of Matteson, spurred on by the good graces and charity of the local Lions’ Club, decided that the library would be born. The club sponsored two benefit performances of “You Can’t Take It with You,” netting about $1, 000 for the fledgling library.
It cost $2.00 a year for Matteson, Richton Park and Olympia Fields residents to become family cardholders; all others were assessed $4.00 a year. Mrs. Gilbert Davies was the first Village Librarian.
However, the library needed books, magazines and the like. So more benefits were held including: a Drury Lane Theatre party – starring Jane Russell in “Skylark” – with $2.50 of the $4.00 ticket proceeds going to the library; Huxley’s “The Gioconda Smile” with Linda Darnell; “Belvedere” in 1963 and “Come Blow Your Horn” with Jan Murray. The Lions’ Club devoted their 1962 fund-raising efforts to the library and the Rehfeldt-Meyer American Legion Post, contributed $300 to the cof¬fers.
The library was indeed busy during its first twelve months of operation. After just one year, these statistics were released:
- 10,500 books circulated
- 277 family cards
- 3,300 books
Moreover, Mrs. Thomas Moore took over Mrs. Davies’ job in 1963, acting as Village librarian for several years to come.
A referendum passed on April 21, 1964 that enabled the Village to collect taxes to support the Library.
In 1966, the library moved to 216th Street and Locust, this time thanks to the “Be Prepared” help from both Boy and Girl Scouts. The remodeled, born-again post office provided MPL with three times as much space, ably housing its 5,000 volumes.
The new location also provided twice the floor space and allowed for separate adult and juvenile sections. That same year, the Library Board voted to become part of the Suburban Library System to accommodate the increasingly diverse needs of a growing community.
Books, though, were not MPL’s only stock in trade.
- A film lending service began to roll in 1967 – that’s right, film lending!
- About this time, Mrs.Ina Curry took over the reins as librarian and gave residents many years of dedicated service.
- Two years later, the Lions’ Club funded preschooler story hours.
- Summer reading programs were launched, along with a paperback collection.
- Twelve months later, another launch occurred: An exhibit of ten color photographs taken by astronauts as they first stepped on the moon.
- Installation of a copying machine (used for a small fee, naturally).
- Thanks to the Irvin Roberts Memorial Fund, established in 1974, the library acquired a small collection of large-print books.
In the meantime, circulation increased by leaps and bounds, resulting in over 27 percent of Matteson’s total population using the library – with 1,360 cardholders circulating 36,504 books.
The Library was on the move again on June 16, 1975. The collection was moved to the then E. J. Korvette Shopping Plaza at 4240 Lincoln Highway. The new location afforded increased space and visibility.
Programs and services continued to increase.
- Residents could browse through a variety of seed catalogs to their gardens’ delight or save via the very popular coupon exchange.
- Stitchers, too, benefited, with a pattern exchange service added in 1979.
- Gifts that came from the heart as well as the pocketbook made a sizeable dent in the library’s list of needs and wants. An atlas stand soon appeared, followed shortly by a pedestal globe, plants galore and magazine subscriptions. The Lions’ Club, once again, gave generously, contributing a talking book machine and an APH cassette recorder and master lens.
The Library’s third move took place in 1979, when the Library and Matteson Community Center both found a new home in the former Oakwood School. The Library shared this building with the Parks and Recreation Department as the building was first leased, then owned and operated by the Village of Matteson.
There were plenty of other moments to remember; like Barbara Graham’s 1975 exhibit of wildlife drawings, prints and paintings; like collecting eyeglasses in cooperation with the local Lions; like a new library administrator, Maurine Hoffmann, who joined the MPL staff in 1978; like a one-time Valentine’s Day present from MPL with love to its users: No fines!
Other events not so exciting but nonetheless commenting on the closeness of the community with its library:
- A 1979 survey of Matteson residents about MPL service, resulting in longer “we’re open” hours and new materials and a brand-new filmstrip projector from the Tri-Village Kiwanis Club
- A collection of framed art prints to be borrowed – and hung by the chimney with great care.
- super-special (and well-attended) programs: on solving tax problems, calligraphy, women’s self-defense, regular Dungeons and Dragons plus more.
- Ever-changing displays, from dolls to war games, shells to M.C. Escher prints, dollhouse furnishings and mini-needlepoint rugs.
In 1985, the Library went online with 40 other libraries in the Suburban Library System (SLS). This computer hook up called SWAN (System Wide Area Network, ) provides an online automated card catalog and makes available resources from 40 other libraries in the SLS system.
The Library went to the voters with a bond issue referendum in April, 1985 whereby it hoped to raise monies for a more suitable library building. When the referendum failed to pass, the Library Board and staff began to implement plans for better utilization of the Oakwood School facility. New shelving for paperback books was installed in the hallway, the audio-visual and reference sections were consolidated and an Apple IIe computer was purchased for the public.
In November, 1989, the Library proposed two successful referenda: a $2.6 million bond issue for a new building and a tax rate increase for operating expenses from a maximum of 15 cents per $100 property evaluation to 25 cents per $100 property evaluation.
1993 – New Library Building
In March 1990, the Library sponsored a national architectural design competition to generate innovative design solutions. More than 750 architects paid an $80 fee to enter the competition and over 290 submitted designs for judging. Four professional architects, Matteson Village Community Development Director Ralph Coglianese, and Administrative Librarian Joyce Willis served as the competition jury. The three primary criteria of the competition were:
- Exterior image and response to context. The exterior image of the building should fit the context and character of the surrounding structures and landscape.
- Interior plans and functional effectiveness. The interior plans must function effectively when evaluated from the standpoint of a wide range of expected users, not only from the standpoint of physical convenience, but also from the standpoint of broader social and psychological needs.
- Cost and response to economic issues. The size, structural and mechanical systems, and general use of materials must be commensurate with the budget of $2.6 million. Three winners and six honorable mentions were selected. The first place winners were Spangler, Semler and Schlenker of Philadelphia. The Illinois architects of record were Clark, Cordogan & Associates of Aurora and Chicago. Burnside Construction Company was accepted as the lowest qualified bidder for the job.
In September, 1991, ground was broken on the three acre site at the corner of 207th and School Avenue and construction of the new building began. Although the building was scheduled for completion by August 1992, there were several delays in the construction project and the Library moved into its new home in November 1993. The theme of the new building is “the Library in the Park” as it is surrounded by Oakwood Park. The building is 23,000 square feet and was expected to satisfy the library needs of the community for at least 25 years. All public services are located on the main floor. The lower level holds a public meeting room with a capacity for 75 people and a staff lounge, Friends of the Library room and storage areas. The building was expected to accommodate 60,000 books, 3,500 audio cassettes and compact discs, 2,000 videocassettes and seating for 104. In 2001, the expected capacity had been significantly exceeded. Other features include two quiet study rooms and a computer/typewriter room for public use.
Computers and Technology
At the time of the Library’s move into the new building, a generous donation from a local computer programming company, Applied Systems, raised the level of technology available to the public and the staff. This gift included hardware, such as 14 PCs, 10 printers and a CD-ROM server and software. Applied Systems assisted the Library in the installation and trouble-shooting of the systems. Computers that allow access to electronic resources are available in both Adult Services and Youth Service.
The interim years 1993-2003 was an exciting time navigating a rapidly growing community and a need for increased patron services while at the same time facing financial limits and restraints of what the library could actually provide. However, the community rallied its support of the library by passing a referendum on April 1, 2003 that raised the tax rate 10 cents to .35% doubling the actual dollars for the library. As a result, the library has made significant capital improvements such as:
- putting on a new roof (inside and out)
- upgrading the electrical system
- adding ceiling fans that help provide more efficient heating and air conditioning throughout the patron areas of the building
- re-caulking all of the windows, doors and exterior seams
- repairing drains and resealing the parking lot
- improving handicapped access
- increasing the hours to 68 hrs per week
In addition, the following services have been added or increased:
- increased the number of Internet public access computers to 14 and two free standing public PC’s both with scanners
- WI-Fi access
- one self-checkout station
- a new circulation desk and shelving
- the total expenditures on materials budget, books, DVD’s, CD’s, audio books, large print books, digital audio books
- increasing information and research databases from 10 to 38
- additional staff positions
- a new and improved Web site
As the Village of Matteson has grown from a population of 3,225 in 1960 to 16,016 in 2006, the library likewise has grown and evolved into a dynamic part of the village. In 1963 10,500 books circulated and, in 2006, 121,000 items circulated; in 1963 277 family cards were issued
and in 2006 over 8,100 residents have library cards; in 1963 the library owned 3,300 books and in 2006 the library owned over 140,000 items including books, magazines and newspapers, books on tape and books on CD, DVD’s and videocassettes, large print books, digital audio books and electronic information resources available from home.
As the community continues to grow, the challenges and needs of the library likewise grow. There is a need for further expansion. There is a need for a computer room/lab, a young adult/teen room, a quiet reading room, quiet study rooms, more shelf space, a café, a larger youth services room, a larger A/V room, and more staff office space. The community support of the library continues to remain very strong and will remain strong in the future. Matteson and the Matteson Public Library will continue to evolve and grow together.
History of Library Directors:
|1961 -1963||Mrs. Gilbert Davies|
|1963-1967||Mrs. Thomas Moore|
|1967-1978||Mrs. Ina Curry|
History of library locations
|1961-1966||21504 Main St.|
|1966-1975||216th & Locust|
|1975-1979||4240 Lincoln Highway|
|1979-1993||813 School Avenue|
|1993 to Present||801 School Avenue|