As the 1930s came to a close, Libertyville looked forward to the possibility of an expanded Cook Memorial Library. The library’s collection of 15,000 books was crammed in the first floor of the former Cook home and the structure was in need of external repairs. In 1939, the Libertyville Lions Club formed a Cook Memorial Library Improvement Committee, led by Dr. E. H. Smith, a member of the Village Library board since its inception, to investigate options . Architect J.E.O. Pridmore of Chicago submitted plans that featured the addition of wings on either side of the Cook home and a brick veneer and cut stone entrance overlaying the house to match with the surrounding structures .
The expansion project stalled over the winter of 1939-1940. While a February 1, 1940 editorial in the local paper called the expansion of the library “one of Libertyville’s ‘must’ programs for civic advancement during 1940,” the project never got off the ground. An illness of Dr. Smith and the death of architect J.E.O Pridmore in February 1940 may have hurt the project . However, even after Dr. Smith’s recovery, little progress was made. By the fall of 1940, one newspaper complained that “The library roof is getting to look pretty tacky!” yet acknowledged “the tired pocketbooks of Libertyville taxpayers” may not support the costs of repair. The newspaper also hinted that Dr. Smith’s leadership role in the development of the Lake County Tuberculous Sanitarium may have taken his attention away from the library .
Discussion of space needs appeared periodically throughout the library board minutes of the 1940s. Yet in place of an addition, various internal updates and external repairs allowed the library to continue serving residents in a familiar but increasingly crowded space. Over the decade, plaster was repaired, walls were painted a “neutral shade of green,” and new fixtures were installed in the bathroom. On the exterior, the pillars were repaired, the stucco and trim received a new coat of paint, and 86 new hedges were planted. In 1946, cement steps and iron railings were installed outside the front door .
Despite the limitations of the building, librarian Blanche Mitchell, assisted by Dorothy Doane, Eunice Brumm, Doris Lanum, Katherine Charleson, and Nettie Simen at various times throughout the decade, continued to serve both adults and children . Current events magazines such as Time, Life and Business Weekly topped the list of most circulated magazines. Household magazines including House and Garden, McCall’s, and Good Housekeeping were also quite popular . The 1940s saw the introduction of Scott’s Standard Postage Stamp Catalog which the library still holds today .
Other book selections reflected the beginning of World War II in Europe and the United States’ entry in the conflict. In August 1941, the library purchased three copies of commercial attaché William L. Shirer’s Berlin Diary, a first-hand account of Shirer’s trials of conducting business in Germany during the rise of Adolph Hitler . A few months later, the library newspaper column recommended Defending America by Creighton Peet and Fighting Ships of the U.S.A. by Lieutenant Victor F. Blakeslee for those “interested in what America is doing for defense” . In January and March 1944, the library column recommended books to read in support of the Office of War Information’s China Book Week and Russia Book Week, efforts to encourage better understanding of these countries .
For those patrons seeking popular fiction, the library offered several copies of 1944’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith and Home Sweet Homicide by Craig Rice . Patrons wishing to bypass the reserve list for popular items could avail themselves of copies from the rental collection which offered extra copies of popular titles for a 2 cent per day rate . For children, the classic Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton made its debut in the collection in early 1940 .
A precursor to the modern day summer reading program premiered during this decade. The first summer reading “project” kicked off in 1943. Members of “The United Nations Fun Club” were required to read three books about a United Nations member country then write a book report or give an oral review. Upon completion of the program, the reader received a small flag from the chosen country . An added bonus – the newspaper printed the name of every participating child. The program was a hit. Within two weeks, 85 children had read one or more books and six children had already received a flag . Some children received multiple flags over the summer while others set a goal to read for flags of all the United Nations countries, a total of 30 countries at the time . A total of 175 children participated in the project . The library offered summer reading programs approximately every other year through the rest of the decade .
The library played a leading role in another project – the Victory Book Campaigns of 1942, 1943, and 1944. In early 1942, the American Library Association, the American Red Cross and the United Service Organizations (USO) set a goal to collect 10 million books to send to U.S. servicemen. In Libertyville, Blanche Mitchell served as director of the local drive and Eunice Brumm coordinated publicity efforts for the collection campaign that ran from January 12 to January 30. Septuagenarian Mrs. Ida Buckley contributed the first book. Books could be dropped at the library, St. Joseph’s School, Central School, Rockland School, the high school, and both the North Shore Line and Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul railroad stations. Those who could not make it to a collection location could call the library to arrange for pick up at their home . By the end of the month, 1,025 books had been donated. However, after sorting the books by condition and eliminating “those which would serve neither a recreational or a practical purpose,” only 469 books were sent to the regional depository in Waukegan for distribution. The other books were sold and the proceeds donated to the campaign to purchase new books .
In response to the somewhat lackluster quality of some of the 1942 donations, newspaper articles promoting the 1943 campaign contained very specific criteria for the year’s books. “It is repeatedly emphasized that new, enjoyable books are the ones desired” . “You are familiar with the type of book men enjoy, so don’t send women’s love stories, out-of-date books, or juvenile books for boys” . A total of 229 books were distributed that year . In 1944, the State of Illinois led a book drive since the national campaign was discontinued. Cook Memorial Library patrons contributed 140 books to the Illinois campaign .
In 1946, the library’s 25th anniversary was acknowledged with a tea hosted by library board members and staff. Over 100 people attended the tea which the newspaper called “one of the most outstanding social events of the season, from the standpoint of both beauty and attendance” . The newspaper also reported that “very attractive leaflets giving the early history of the library were presented to the visitors” at the open house which featured a “tea table [that] was a masterpiece of perfection and elegance, snowy white linen laid with gleaming silver set off with one of the most beautiful centerpieces that has been seen in many a day” .
Cook Memorial Library collection.
In August 1948, the library board hired Catherine Littler to serve as librarian when Blanche Mitchell fell ill and was hospitalized for a time. Upon Mrs. Mitchell’s return to work in March 1, 1949, Mrs. Littler was kept on as assistant librarian . Mrs. Mitchell recovered in time to host a March 8, 1949 farewell dinner honoring two long-time board members at her second-floor apartment above the library. Max Kohner and Luella Ray retired from the board after 26 and 24 years of service, respectively .
Despite space struggles, the Cook Memorial Library continued to grow and serve the needs of its patrons during the 1940s. In the next decade the library would experience new leadership and new opportunities.
The following sources used in this post can be found in the Cook Memorial Public Library District collection.
- “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.
- “Offer Cook Library Plan: Lions Study Plan Offered by Architect.” Independent Register, August 10, 1939. p. 1.
- “The Community Waits.” Independent Register, February 1, 1940, p. 4; Libertyville News, February 8, 1940, p. 7.
- “Not in the News.” Libertyville News, September 12, 1940, p. 2. Newspapers.com.
- “Libertyville Personals.” Libertyville News, September 11,1941, p. 14; Meeting minutes of the Board of Directors of Cook Memorial Library of Libertyville Township, July 8, 1941. Cook Memorial Public Library collection; Meeting minutes of the Board of Directors of Cook Memorial Library of Libertyville Township, March 10, 1942. Cook Memorial Public Library collection; Meeting minutes of the Board of Directors of Cook Memorial Library of Libertyville Township, July 14, 1942. Cook Memorial Public Library collection; Libertyville News, July 3, 1941, p. 1. Newspapers.com.
- Meeting minutes of the Board of Directors of Cook Memorial Library of Libertyville Township, 1941-1949. Cook Memorial Public Library collection.
- “Magazines a Very Important Part of Library’s Offerings.” Libertyville News, April 4, 1940, p. 4. Newspapers.com.
- “Cook Memorial Library News.” Libertyville News, June 12, 1941, p. 7. Newspapers.com.
- “Cook Memorial Library News.” Libertyville News, August 21, 1941, p. 5. Newspapers.com.
- “Cook Memorial Library News.” Libertyville News, October 30, 1941, p. 4. Newspapers.com.
- “Cook Memorial Library Notes.” Independent Register, January 20, 1944, p. 6; Independent Register, March 9, 1944, p. 6.
- “Cook Memorial Library Notes.” Independent Register, March 2, 1944, p. 6.
- “Cook Memorial Library News.” Libertyville News, September 26, 1940. p. 16.
- “Library Recommends ‘Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel.'” Libertyville News, February 1, 1940, p. 4.
- “Cook Memorial Library Notes.” Independent Register, June 10, 1943, p. 6.
- “Cook Memorial Library Notes.” Independent Register, June 24, 1943, p. 6.
- “Cook Memorial Library Notes.” Independent Register, June 10, 1943, p. 6; June 24, 1943, p. 6.; July 1, 1943, p. 6.
- Meeting minutes of the Board of Directors of Cook Memorial Library of Libertyville Township, March 13, 1944. Cook Memorial Public Library collection.
- Meeting minutes of the Board of Directors of Cook Memorial Library of Libertyville Township, 1944-1950. Cook Memorial Public Library collection.
- “Victory Book Campaign Launched; Mrs. Ida Bulkley is First Donor.” Independent Register, January 15, 1942.
- “Cook Memorial Public Library Notes.” Independent Register, February 12, 1942, p. 8.
- “Victory Book Drive to Aid Servicemen.” Independent Register, January 21, 1943, p. 6.
- “Cook Memorial Public Library Notes.” Independent Register, February 1, 1943, p. 8.
- Meeting minutes of the Board of Directors of Cook Memorial Library of Libertyville Township, March 14, 1944. Cook Memorial Public Library collection.
- “Cook Memorial Public Library Notes.” Independent Register, December 16, 1943, p. 8.
- “Library Silver Tea Most Successful Event of the Year.” Independent Register, November 14, 1946, p. 6.
- “Twenty-fifth Anniversary – Cook Memorial Library.” Program. November 10, 1946. Cook Memorial Public Library collection.
- Meeting minutes of the Board of Directors of Cook Memorial Library of Libertyville Township, August 11, 1948; February 8, 1949. Cook Memorial Public Library collection.
- “Library Board Members Feted At Dinner Party at J. Mitchell Home.” Independent Register, March 17, 1949, p. 8.; Meeting minutes of the Board of Directors of Cook Memorial Library of Libertyville Township, March 14, 1950. Cook Memorial Public Library collection.