History of the Library

The Palatine Public Library began in 1920, when Boy Scout Troop One gathered just over 500 books, comprised of what residents could spare from their own shelves. Room was found for the books in the Joel Wood School on Wood Street. This proved so successful that Scoutmaster George Herrmann decided that the library should go public. In May 1923, enough funds were pledged to rent a one-room store front in what was known as the old Matthei block on North Bothwell Street. Miss Lottie Hart agreed to be the librarian. The first Library open house was held September 8, 1923. Four days later, 64 borrowers registered. The first borrower was Miss Margaret Schering when she checked out "Our National Parks."

On May 5, 1924, residents were asked to vote for the upcoming referendum and help establish a public library that would "levy a tax of one and eight tenths mills for library purposes." The vote carried by a small majority. That same year, the first Library Trustees were elected.

In January 1947, the library moved to larger quarters at 55 West Wood Street and in 1949 it became necessary to establish new hours. The Library would now be open Wednesday through Saturday, 3 - 5:30 p.m. and 7 - 9 p.m. Mrs. Nordal Thompson became assistant librarian. Ms. Hart retired in 1950 and Mrs. W. A. Muller, who held a degree in Library Science from the University of Illinois, became the new librarian. Under her direction, staff and volunteers took inventory, made a shelf list, and began to catalogue the collection. This same year, the Friends of the Library was formed, offering much support for the Library.

Always eager to participate in community projects, the Library assisted Dr. Noble J. Puffer, then Cook County Superintendent of Schools, in helping to upgrade the reading skills of rural children. The first "bookmobile" was formed. This consisted of a trailer pulled by Dr. Noble’s personal car, equipped with a stove, shelves, books, a desk, and a shelf list. This innovation began in 1936 and continued through 1941, when gas rationing made it impractical.

Responding to increasing demands on library services, the Library moved to rooms on the first floor of the Masonic Building at One North Plum Grove Road in September 1951. At this time, the staff increased by four, a clerk and 3 pages. In 1956, there were 3,000 borrowers on file, 7,277 volumes, with circulation of 29,150.

A bond issue referendum was overwhelmingly successful, and in February 1957, the library bought the property at 149 North Brockway Street and moved in. The new hours for the Library were Monday through Friday, 1 -8 p.m. and Saturday, 1 - 5 p.m.

The developing needs of the community influenced the goals and direction of the Library. Miss Charlotte Bryan, the third librarian, supplemented the Library’s collection by borrowing from the State Library bookmobile, which made weekly visits to the Palatine Library. A children’s room was opened on December 26, 1962. In May 1963, 6,000 village borrowers were on record and 400 non-resident families.

Arthur Curley, the next librarian, encouraged the Library’s membership in the North Suburban Library System. In 1966 the tax rate of 20 mills made it possible to begin building the collection, which doubled by 1968.

The years passed, and in November 1973, a building referendum passed allowing the purchase of the 32,000-square-foot building at 500 North Benton Street. A lower level children's area was completed, services were expanded, and the book and audio-visual collections grew.

A referendum for conversion to a public library district passed in September 1974. The 1975 annual report listed the statistics as 18,245 borrowers, 66,257 volumes, and an annual circulation of 203,785.

In October 1980, voters in Palatine and Hoffman Estates overwhelmingly approved the proposal to annex five north Hoffman Estates subdivisions into the Palatine Public Library District. 

The Main Library moved again in December 1993 to the current 96,000 square-foot building at 700 N. North Court. At this location, collections, programs, and services have all expanded.

The Library operated the Freeman Road Branch in Hoffman Estates for nearly 30 years. This branch closed and the new North Hoffman Branch, located in the Willow Recreation Center of the Hoffman Estates Park District on Lexington Road, opened in the fall of 2011.

The Rand Road Branch, located in the Community Resource Center, in partnership with the Palatine Opportunity Center, opened its doors in 2000.

The Library also provided Bookmobile service from 1999 through 2014. The Bookmobile provided service to schools and apartment complexes within the Library District service area.

As the community grows and changes so does the Library and its services and programs. Library Staff and Trustees are committed to remaining relevant and essential to the needs and interests of the community and the residents within our service area.

This information was adapted from Mary F. Davis’s "The Story of the Library", written in 1975.