History & building

Since the 1920s, we have been a fixture in the community. Follow our story from then to now and learn about the permanent art on display in the building.

History

1929-30

The Cosmos Club forms and decides to start a public library. The Niles Center Public Library opens on the second floor of the Blameuser Building at Lincoln and Oakton. The library contains 1,000 books and is open 10 hours a week.

1933

A referendum to obtain tax support for a library fails by about 30 votes. The library moves into a room in the Municipal Building and the Village sets aside a small sum from the general fund to provide for a half-time librarian.

1941

Skokie voters approve a tax-supported library, with a tax rate set at a maximum of $1.2 million.

1942

The library leases half of a building at 4913 Oakton Street and the post office occupies the other half.

1952

The post office moves, giving the library the entire building for its more than 18,000 books.

1957

The first bookmobile goes into service, serving eight locations in Skokie.

1958

A referendum passes to build and equip a new library for $850,000.

1960

The new building opens at 5215 Oakton Street. The building is 34,200 square feet and can hold 150,000 books. It opens with 50,000 books and a staff of 25, half of whom work part time. The architect was James W. Hammond of Skidmore Owings & Merrill.

1963

The library building is honored by the American Institute of Architects and the American Library Association.

1971

Almost 67,000 square feet are added to the building, increasing its capacity to 350,000 books. The architect was James W. Hammond of Hammond & Roesch, later Hammond, Beeby and Associates.

1977

The American Nazi party makes plans to march in Skokie. In preparation, law enforcement agents place gun mounts on the library’s roof. The march does not take place.

1982

The library is depicted in a cachet by Skokie artist Doris Gold for the “Libraries of America” stamp issued by the United States Postal Service on July 13.

1985

The library is awarded a State of Illinois grant to begin a pilot program offering services to the disabled.

1986

The card catalog is replaced by GEAC, an online catalog. Compact discs are added to the collection.

1988

Representatives of George Bush, Sr.’s presidential campaign request that he be allowed to make a speech in the library. The request is refused, and he speaks in front of the Holocaust Memorial on the Village Green. The library is closed to everyone except reporters, who fight over the library telephones.

1995

The library launches its first website.

1996

The library wins the North Suburban Library System’s “Library of the Year” award.

2001

Work begins on a major expansion and renovation of the building. Robert D. Hunter was the design architect, from O’Donnell Wicklund Pigozzi and Peterson.

2003

Director Carolyn Anthony receives the Illinois Library Association’s “Librarian of the Year” award. The “grand reopening” of the building features the addition of a third floor and expansion of the first floor on the west side of the building, with a new entrance, among the extensive changes.

2008

Skokie Public Library is the first public library in Illinois to be awarded the National Medal for Museum and Library Service. Three library representatives travel to the White House to receive the award.

2010

Annual library circulation reaches two-million items for the first time.

2012

Director Carolyn Anthony is elected a 2013-14 president of the Public Library Association. The second floor is remodeled to add a Business and Career Center, as well as six additional study rooms.

2014

The library is awarded 5 stars (the top ranking) in Library Journal’s national ranking of public libraries.

Floor plans

Get an overview of how our 133,190 square foot building is laid out.

Floor plans for the Skokie Public Library

Icon Download the floor plans (114.4 KB)

Art collection

Paintings, sculptures, even a tapestry grace the library’s walls and grounds in our permanent art collection. Learn more

More history

Three print sources related to the library’s history can be found in the catalog, or ask at the Reference Desk.