From the Crystal Lake Herald, November 13, 1913:
On Saturday afternoon, Nov. 15, a circulating library will be opened to the public. Through the generosity of Mrs. H.A. Dodge, whose attractive Crystal Lake home is now vacant, the library is installed upon the book shelves, and chairs and tables have been placed in the reading room.
At present the library is composed largely of the best grade of fiction. In time it is hoped to add history and technical works by the best authors. The following list of magazines and current publications will be available in the reading room, where they can be used at any time during the open hours of the library:
Harper’s Monthly, Popular Mechanics, Popular Electricity, The Geographical Magazine, McClure’s, Ladies’ Home Journal, Women’s Home Companion, Good Housekeeping, Vogue, Country Life in America, The Garden Magazine, St. Nicholas, Little Folks.
The idea of this reading room and library originated with a young men’s club of the Congregational Church, but the present scope of the enterprise will recognize no denominational bounds, and it is expressly understood that everyone, children as well as grown folks, shall be welcome at all times to the books and papers. There will be no charge, whatever, to patrons of the library for the use of books, and they can be had any Saturday, between the hours of 2 p.m. and 10 p.m., by application to the person in charge. The reading room will be heated and lighted during these hours for the benefit of any who may wish to read the magazines and papers.
Come Saturday and look over the new magazines and find a good book to read.
From this beginning a library was formed. In 1914, the library moved from the Dodge home to a room in the local high school building. It was incorporated in 1926, and a board of eleven members was selected to control and manage the affairs of the library.
By the 1930s, the number of books had grown so much that the collection was moved from the high school building to its heating plant. In 1937, the American Legion planned to build a combined library and legion headquarters. These plans fell through, but the Legion generously donated the land to the library.
The library became a tax-supported agency in 1942, when the citizens of Crystal Lake approved a library tax. The mayor appointed the first board. The first paid librarian was hired; she was paid the princely sum of $60 a month. In 1952, a new library building, separate from the high school, was finally completed at the current location of 126 Paddock St. The library was expanded in 1958, when meeting rooms in the lower level were converted into a children’s library.
In 1965, a library bond issue was approved by Crystal Lake citizens to build a new library. The collection was moved temporarily to the high school while construction was completed. The 1952 building was razed and a new building erected on the same site. The new building was dedicated in October 1966. A branch library was opened in the West Park Beach House in 1970, but it was destroyed in a fire in July 1971, and was never reopened.
Another major renovation and expansion program was completed in 1986. During this period, the library received the Thomas Ames Trust Fund, which has helped assure the library’s fiscal future.
The 1995 building expansion, which added 13,000 square feet to our existing structure, was completed in January 1998. By continuing to grow, we are able to provide the best service available to our patrons.
In 1999 the Crystal Lake Public Library was ranked #10 among public libraries. The September issue of American Libraries included the article “Great American Public Libraries: HAPLR Ratings, Round Two,” by Thomas J. Hennen, Jr. The Crystal Lake Public Library was ranked #10 among public libraries serving communities of 25,000-49,999 across the United States. The HAPLR Index includes 15 factors. The focus is on circulation, staffing, materials, reference service and funding levels.
In fall 2004, a referendum to build a new library on property owned by Immanuel Lutheran Church behind Jewel failed by 70%. In order to determine a course of action, the Library Board formed a Citizens Library Advisory Committee to study space needs issues. In addition, the Library Board hired Public Opinion Laboratory of Northern Illinois University to conduct a public opinion survey.
As a result of the Citizens Library Advisory Committee recommendation and the public opinion survey, in 2006 the library began a reorganization project dubbed “Project Shoehorn.” Project Shoehorn was developed as a short-term solution to current space issues within the confines of the current building. This project, completed in 2007, was intended to buy 5-8 years in the current facility without an expansion.
Upon completion of Project Shoehorn, the goals of updating technology, moving all adult services to one floor, increasing shelving and storage, and expanding youth services were all accomplished. library shelving increased from 16,000 to 17,500 linear feet. This major project was completed without an increase in the library tax rate.
The Project Shoehorn reconfigurations and improvements are expected to enable the library to remain in the current building for up to five years without major expansion. During this time, the Library Board of Trustees will be monitoring ongoing operations and space needs while ensuring the people of Crystal Lake continue to receive excellent library service.