Cook Memorial Public Library at 100. The rest of the 1920s.

Lake County Register, March 28, 1923, p. 1

During the Roaring Twenties, the Cook Memorial Library underwent growth and development on every front, from the building to the staff to the collection to its very organization.

The two biggest changes happened in 1923: the library board hired a new librarian, and the library taxing boundaries increased to include all of Libertyville Township. Smaller changes continued to shape the Cook Memorial Library into a civic institution that served the community with professional aplomb and attention to the public’s need.

Libertyville experienced significant growth in the 1920s. As the population increased, so did the use of the library, especially by high school students. The local high school at that time was the Libertyville Township High School, thus many students who lived outside the boundaries of the village of Libertyville were making use of the library, putting increasing demands on the collection and the staff. With the guidance of the state librarian, the library board decided to expand the boundaries of the library to include the entire township of Libertyville by proposing a township tax levy. This would increase the tax base and thus provide more financial support from all areas that were making use of the library [1].

Libertyville Township High School
Image courtesy of Libertyville-Mundelein Historical Society

In early April 1923 the tax levy passed, and in April of 1924 the township voters chose a new township library board. The members of the new Township Library Board were W. G. Wells and Grace Gridley (1-year terms), Max Kohner and Ella Brewerton (2-year terms) and Kenneth Lovell and Orpha J. Harding (3-year terms). The village library board continued to operate, with the purpose of handling the details of the sale of property lots that had been left to the library in Emily Cook’s will [2].

Lake County Register, April 9, 1924, p. 1.

During these changes the new librarian, Mrs. Blanche Mitchell, settled in. Her contract was similar to Mrs. Jarrett’s in giving her responsibility for the library collection as well as the upkeep of the building, although by 1928 the library board hired a cleaning woman and a man to carry out the ashes. Mrs. Mitchell and her husband John lived on the second floor of the library, as had Mr. and Mrs. Jarrett. But as a nod to the growing work demand, in 1924 the library board hired Katherine Morse as Mrs. Mitchell’s assistant. In 1926 Anne Graham joined the staff as children’s librarian. Graham left in 1929 and Lucille Golding took her place [3].

Blanche Miller, ca. 1929

In the summer of 1924 Mrs. Mitchell attended the University of Illinois to take a six-week course in library work, [4] laying a foundation of professionalism at the library. In addition, Mrs. Mitchell and her staff attended the annual Illinois Library Association meetings as well as regional library conferences. The Cook Memorial Library took out its own membership in the American Library Association.

Many improvements helped modify the home of Ansel and Emily Cook into a library. Some changes were small, like the installation of a telephone (The Library’s number was 330-M) and a public rest room [5]. Some alterations were cosmetic, like new window treatments. The newspaper reported, “The library has recently received new draperies. They are in shades of blue and red and conform with the coloring of the walls, the whole giving a tone of deepness, richness and quiet.” [6] Some library improvements to the house were practical, like tables and chairs in the reference room and arm chairs for the reading room. The library acquired its first card catalog case in 1923. Other developments were substantial. A cement sidewalk in 1924, separate entrance to the children’s room and a new furnace and water heater in 1927, and re-stuccoing of the south wall in 1928 all helped transform the building at 413 N. Milwaukee Avenue in Libertyville from a home to a public library [7].

The Ansel B. and Emily Barrows Cook Memorial Library, circa 1923,
Cook Memorial Public Library collection.

The library also responded to the needs of the community. They instituted telephone renewals, thanks to their new telephone, as well as extended loans for vacation periods [8]. Library hours increased throughout the decade until in 1929 the library was open for over 40 hours a week.

Lake County Register, October 9, 1921, p. 5.

The library collection grew as well. The newspaper often printed lists of new books or reviews written by Mrs. Mitchell.

Libertyville Independent, December 11, 1924, p. 5.

In 1925 Mr. Underbrink from the Libertyville Township High School donated a copy of the school’s yearbook, the Nautilus. The library maintains this collection today. Reference works like encyclopedias and the Revised Illinois Statutes were added to the collection [9]. These sources are also still used by Cook librarians and patrons, either in print or online.

1925 Nautilus,
Libertyville Township High School yearbook

The library accepted several donations from prominent citizen Samuel Insull, Jr. [10].

Title page of A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents, volume 18
presented to the Cook Memorial Library by
Samuel Insull, Jr.
Image courtesy Libertyville-Mundelein Historical Society
Bookplate from A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents, volume 18
presented to the Cook Memorial Library by
Samuel Insull, Jr.
Image courtesy Libertyville-Mundelein Historical Society

The library collection reflected the needs and interests of the community. In March of 1927 the list of new books included several books of plays “eminently suitable for use in school and clubs.” [11] Canaries must have been the popular pet in 1929; Mrs. Mitchell announced two new books on canary breeding and a subscription donation to Canary Journal. Also in 1929 Miss Graham provided a special shelf in the children’s room for the Boy Scout merit books [12].

As the book collection grew, so did programming offerings, especially for the children. Mrs. Flora Coen, a Libertyville resident who had worked previously for several years as a story teller at the New York Public Library, entertained the children with stories for several years, beginning in 1926. In 1927 the children’s staff started a tradition of holding a Christmas Party for their young patrons. Children’s Book Week was always promoted in November, and in 1929 a special contest invited children to decipher book titles in a clever story composed by children’s librarian Louise Golding that the newspaper printed [13].

Lake County Register, November 13, 1929, p. 4.

Throughout the decade the library became involved with its community. In 1924 a new Shakespeare class met in the library, and so did the Camp Fire Girls. The Libertyville Band performed on the library veranda in 1929. The Libertyville Women’s Club sold cookbooks at the library and the Red Cross held a membership drive there [14]. In June of 1927 the library hosted the Libertyville Garden Club’s Flower Show; the newspaper declared that “All the exhibits were arranged in artistic style and the rooms in the library were a delight to the visitors.”[15] And as soon as the new Condell Memorial Hospital opened in 1928, the library brought books to the hospital patients twice a week. The next year Mrs. Mitchell served as chairman of the library committee of the hospital’s Women’s Auxiliary [16].

Condell Memorial Hospital, 1928
Image courtesy of Libertyville-Mundelein Historical Society

At the close of the decade, Mrs. Mitchell and Miss Golding spoke at a PTA meeting in nearby Mundelein; their topic was “Books for Children.” Additional discussion at the meeting revolved around the establishment of a Cook Library branch in Mundelein. The newspaper reported that “members of the school board were appointed to confer and co-operate with the Library Board.” [17] Subsequent minutes of the library board reveal that the board appointed a committee to look into the matter [18]. More changes seemed to be in store. What would the next decade bring?

Meeting minutes of the Board of Directors of Cook Memorial Library of Libertyville Township, December 9, 1929.
Cook Memorial Public Library collection.

The following sources used in this post can be found in the Cook Memorial Public Library District collection.

Endnotes
1. Minutes of the Cook Memorial Library Board of the Village of Libertyville, January 3, 1923 Cook Memorial Public Library collection; Lake County Register, March 28, 1923, p. 1.
2. Libertyville Independent, March 20, 1924, p. 1; Lake County Register, April 9, 1924, p. 1.
3. Libertyville Independent, April 12, 1928, p. 2; Minutes of the Board of Directors of Cook Memorial Library of Libertyville Township, 9 June, 1924, Cook Memorial Public Library collection; Minutes of the Board of Directors of Cook Memorial Library of Libertyville Township, January 11, 1926, Cook Memorial Public Library collection; Minutes of the Board of Directors of Cook Memorial Library of Libertyville Township, May 13, 1929, Cook Memorial Public Library collection.
4. Lake County Register, June 14, 1924, p. 5.
5. Lake County Register, August 13, 1924, p. 1; Minutes of the Board of Directors of Cook Memorial Library of Libertyville Township, August 11, 1924, Cook Memorial Public Library collection.
6. Libertyville Independent, August 19, 1926, p. 7;
7. Minutes of the Board of Directors of Cook Memorial Library of Libertyville Township, April 13, 1925, Cook Memorial Public Library collection; Minutes of the Board of Directors of Cook Memorial Library of Libertyville Township, October 10, 1927, Cook Memorial Public Library collection; Minutes of the Cook Memorial Library Board of the Village of Libertyville, February 23 1923, Cook Memorial Public Library collection; Lake County Register, April 2,1927, p. 5; Libertyville Independent, September 4, 1924, p. 1; Minutes of the Board of Directors of Cook Memorial Library of Libertyville Township, October 10 1927, Cook Memorial Public Library collection; Minutes of the Board of Directors of Cook Memorial Library of Libertyville Township, July 9, 1928, Cook Memorial Public Library collection.
8. Lake County Register, August 13, 1924, p. 1; Lake County Register, July 4 1925, p. 5.
9. Lake County Register, June 3, 1925, p. 5; Lake County Register, January 31, 1925, p. 1; Lake County Register, December 19, 1925, p. 5.
10. Lake County Register, June 9, 1923, p. 5; Libertyville Review, November 27, 1924, p. 8; Lake County Register, October 20, 1926, p. 1.
11. Lake County Register, March 30, 1927, p. 5;
12. Lake County Register, June 5, 1929, p. 5; Lake County Register, March 30, 1929, p. 5.
13. Minutes of the Board of Directors of Cook Memorial Library of Libertyville Township, November 8, 1926, Cook Memorial Public Library collection; Lake County Register, December 24, 1927, p. 5; Lake County Register, November 13, 1929, p. 4.
14. Lake County Register, July 19, 1924, p. 10; Lake County Register, December 22, 1926, p.5; Libertyville Independent, 11 July 1929 p. 1; Lake County Register, September 24, 1924, p. 7; Libertyville Independent, November 14, 1929, p. 1.
15. Libertyville Independent, June 30, 1927, p. 1.
16. Lake County Register, August 29, 1928, p. 5; Libertyville Independent, January 31, 1929, p. 4.
17. Libertyville Independent, November 21, 1929, p. 6.
18. Minutes of the Board of Directors of Cook Memorial Library of Libertyville Township, September 9, 1929, Cook Memorial Public Library collection.

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