Cook Memorial Library at 100. The 1930s.

In late 1929, a number of Mundelein residents circulated a petition requesting a branch of the Cook Memorial Library be opened to serve residents in the western part of Libertyville Township (the western border of the township is Route 45/Lake Street in Mundelein) [1]. Space was secured at the McBride Hardware store on Maple Avenue and the branch began service two days a week in January 1930. Branch hours were Monday and Friday from 2pm to 5pm. The initial collection contained 500 books and 12 magazines with the magazine selection catering to the needs of the surrounding farming community [2]. In May the branch moved to a space in Mr. Rouse’s building at Lake and Park [3].

Independent Register, January 17, 1930, p 1.

The Cook Memorial Library and the park outside the front door cemented their role in the community during the second decade of operation. Local newspaper editorials sang the library’s praises. A November 1930 editorial reminded the community that the children’s room offered “unlimited wealth and worthwhileness to the children of the village” [4]. A July 1931 editorial argued that the library was a “Good Investment” and that it offered “comfort, recreation, and enlightenment” to its users [5]. In further support, a weekly library news column appeared on the Woman’s Page of the Independent Register. The column provided updates on new books and urged people to get on the wait lists for popular titles. 


Independent Register,
January 8, 1931, p. 1.

Independent Register,
July 7, 1932, p. 8.

Independent Register,
September 8, 1932, p. 8.
I
I

The library building served as a village landmark. Local businesses advertised their location as “Across from the Library” [6].

Libertyville News, June 29, 1933, p.4.Libertyville News, July 20, 1933, p.7.

The park, often referred to as “Library Park,” offered recreational activities. One newspaper editorial called the park “a beauty spot where its inviting expanse of well kept lawn and giant shade trees can be enjoyed by a large number of people” [7]. Residents played tennis on courts behind the library and attended weekly Libertyville band concerts on the lawn during the summer [8].

Scene, Library Park, Libertyville, Ill., after 1921.
Courtesy of the Libertyville-Mundelein Historical Society.

Perhaps the largest event in Cook Park during the 1930s was the 1936 Centennial Celebration which honored the one hundredth anniversary of the community’s settlement. (Libertyville did not incorporate as a village until 1882). The keystone of the multi-day event was a narrated pageant staged on the terrace in front of the library. About 300 residents became thespians for the performance featuring ten scenes illustrating Libertyville’s history from pioneer days to the current time. The pageant was performed the first three nights of the celebration. Other activities included a large parade, the crowning of a queen, and a variety of band concerts performed in an amphitheater constructed in front of the library. Leo Rinal of the Rinal Fly Company sponsored the construction of a pool on the tennis courts for fly and bait casting. Librarian Blanche Mitchell coordinated storefront window displays of historical items and photographs loaned by long-time residents. On July 4, the penultimate night of the jubilee, fireworks lit up the night sky over Liberty Lake [9].

Libertyville News, July 2, 1936, p. 1.

At the time of the celebration, the nation was well in to the Great Depression. The library weathered the Depression years by reducing staff, reducing salaries, and taking advantage of the availability of a small allotment from the Illinois Library Relief Fund. But with lowered assessed housing values and tax payment defaults, the library’s revenue had been cut almost in half by the middle of the decade. The library board found it necessary to ask for a tax levy increase. Without the increase, the book budget would need to be severely reduced, hours of business decreased, and the Mundelein branch closed. A 1937 newspaper article supporting the increase complained that “it is difficult to get the new books without reservations a month or two in advance. Five copies of “Gone With the Wind” fail to fill the demand; there are almost fifty reservations at present” [10]. At the April 1937 election, township residents approved the increase from 9 to 12 cents on $100 assessed valuation with 665 votes in favor and 516 against [11].

By the end of the 1930s, the library’s collection of 15,000 books, five times the number of books when the library opened nearly 20 years before, was crammed in to the first floor of the former Cook home and the structure was in need of external repairs. In July 1939, the Libertyville Lions Club, an organization interested in civic betterment, created a Cook Memorial Library Improvement Committee to investigate options for an addition to the building [12]. Dr. E. H. Smith, an original member of the the Cook Library board, was named chair of the committee [13].

After reading an Independent Register article about the Lions’ project, architect J.E.O. Pridmore of Chicago submitted plans to the working group. His proposal featured the addition of fire-proof wings on either side of the Cook home with a brick veneer and cut stone entrance overlaying the house to match with the surrounding structures [14].

Architectural sketch of proposed addition, J.E.O. Pridmore, 1939.
Cook Memorial Public Library.
Floorplan of proposed addition, J.E.O. Pridmore, 1939.
Cook Memorial Public Library.

Through the sale of some of the Cook Avenue lots willed to the Village Library board by Emily Barrows Cook, about $16,000 was available to put towards remodeling or expansion, but at least another $10,000 would need to be raised in order to implement the Pridmore plan. Max Kohner, president of the Township Library board, agreed more space was needed, but expressed concern that the new space would require an increase of approximately $1300 per year to the library’s operating budget and raising those funds would be difficult (proceeds from the Cook Avenue lots could not be used for operating expenses) [14].

As the 1930s came to a close, Libertyville looked forward to the possibility of an expanded Cook Memorial Library.

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

Sources

  1. Meeting minutes of the Board of Directors of Cook Memorial Library of Libertyville Township, December 9, 1929. Cook Memorial Public Library collection.
  2. “Cook Memorial Library Opens Auxiliary Branch at Mundelein.” Independent Register, January 17, 1930, p. 1.
  3. Ibid.
  4. “The Children’s Room at the Library.” Independent Register, November 13, 1930, p. 6.
  5. “A Good Investment.” Independent Register, July 23, 1931, p. 6.
  6. “The Ladies Shop.” Advertisement. Libertyville News, June 29, 1933, p.4.; “Park View Tavern.” Advertisement. Libertyville News, July 20, 1933, p.7.
  7. “Help Keep the Park Clean.” Independent Register, June 23, 1932, p.6.
  8. “Cook Park Tennis Courts.” Independent Register, February 26, 1931, p. 6; “Summer Band Concerts.” Independent Register, June 23, 1932, p. 6.
  9. “Centennial Officials Offer Detailed Information to the Public.” Libertyville News, June 11, 1936, p.4.; “Centennial.” Libertyville News, June 18, 1936, p. 2.; “Army Here for Centennial.” Libertyville News, June 25, 1936, p. 1. ; Huge Parade Opens Village Centennial.” Libertyville News, July 2, 1936, p. 1.
  10. “Cook Memorial Library Statistics.” Libertyville News, March 4, 1937, p. 6.
  11. “James T. Mack is Re-Elected as Supervisor.” Libertyville News, April 8, 1937, p. 1.
  12. “Move to Enlarge Library.” Independent Register, July 6, 1939, p.1.; “23 Committees Named to Push Lions’ Program.” Independent Register, July 6, 1939, p. 1.
  13. Ibid.;
  14. “Offer Cook Library Plan: Lions Study Plan Offered by Architect.” Independent Register, August 10, 1939. p. 1.
  15. Ibid.

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