The Woodridge Public Library (WPL) is located at 3 Plaza Drive in Woodridge, Illinois, a southwestern suburb of Chicago in DuPage County on the border with Will County. The library building is part of an artificial civic center (that includes the village hall, police headquarters, and post office) in a village that has no real downtown.
Woodridge is a pleasantly forested bedroom community with some light industry, calls centers, medical clinics, and shopping malls concentrated along arterial roads and highways that cut through town. It is nestled between Lisle to the north, Naperville to the west, Bolingbrook to the south, Darien to the east, and Downers Grove to the northeast.
According to Aaron Harwig’s entry on Woodridge in the Encyclopedia of Chicago, the Pottawatomi, Ojibwa, Ottawa, and Sac Indians used to gather for intertribal meetings on a site near the modern-day intersection of 71st Street and Woodridge Drive, north of the Indian Boundary Line. Pomeroy Goodrich, a farmer from Vermont, was the first European to settle in what would become Woodridge. He arrived before the Indians were forced to move west of the Mississippi after the Black Hawk War, built the first log cabin on the site of Woodridge and coexisted with the natives. In 1841, another settler arrived, William Greene, a farmer from New York who farmed land along what is now Hobson Road.
Many German-speaking farmers arrived in what is now Woodridge from Alsace-Lorraine (provinces 17th century French kings successively purchased or seized from the Holy Roman Empire that the newly-formed German Empire “took back” from the Second French Empire after the Franco-Prussian War in 1871, the Third Republic of France took back from Weimar Germany after World War I, Hitler took back from France early in World War II, and the Fourth Republic of France took back from the Third Reich after World War II). For decades, Woodridge remained a farming community largely untouched by the BNSF railroad that ran through Downers Grove, Lisle, and Naperville, and influenced the growth of those towns.
In 1958, Surety Builders developed a plot of land southeast of 75th Street and Route 53, situated on a ridge that overlooked woodland that surrounded the DuPage River, which inspired the name “Woodridge.” The majority of homes were purchased by World War II veterans who received loans insured through the GI Bill. A number of early residents were Argonne National Laboratory scientists or other staff members and their families. Residents approved incorporation as a village in August 1959. At the time, Woodridge had a population of 459.
Progressively more and more farmland disappeared as developers built more homes. Winston-Muss Builders developed the Winston Hills subdivision to the north of Woodridge in 1964, which expanded the village’s population to 5,300. The Woodridge Center subdivision, annexed in 1972, doubled Woodridge’s land area. The growth led to sectionalism in the village that was alleviated by the opening of the north-south arterial road Woodridge Drive in 1974.
Between 1961 and 1976, Woodridge School District 68 erected six schools. Community High School District 99 opened Downers South High School to accommodate Woodridge teens. The first shopping center in Woodridge opened in 1965. The demos voted to approve the creation of a library in 1967. They did the same thing for the Woodridge Park District in 1969 to preserve rapidly disappearing open land. Wilton Industries, which then was a division of Pillsbury, arrived in Woodridge in 1977.
Woodridge reached a population of 30,934 in 2000. The opening of the North-South Tollway (Interstate 355) in 1989 created greater opportunities for both residential and commercial development. The Seven Bridges Ice Arena has attracted attention throughout the Midwest for years. It has long had an NHL Rink, an Olympic Rink, and now has a second floor Turf Field for soccer and the like.
For a long time, 75th Street has been the commercial center of the village. A second commercial strip with restaurants and the Cinemark at Seven Bridges and IMAX movie theater-house has developed along Route 53 north of Seven Bridges Ice Arena. Woodridge has one of the highest movie theatres per capita in the U.S. One of them, Hollywood Boulevard Cinema, a move theater/bar/restaurant in the Woodgrove Festival Mall on 75th Street has achieved a certain degree of national attention because it has brought in a number of actors and actresses for screenings of old films like Tony Curtis, Jane Russell, Peter Falk, Michael Madsen, and David Carradine, Shirley Jones, Karen Allen, as well as local singer-actress Jennifer Hudson.
In 2011, Woodridge was visited by a foreign head of state in the company of Mayor Richard M. Daley of Chicago. Ten companies with ties to the People’s Republic of China (PRC) some of them owned in whole or in part by the state, that either have offices in Chicagoland or hoped to open offices here soon, staged an exposition in Woodridge for the benefit of President Hu Jintao, the paramount leader of China.
In 1961, Village Board President William T. Roberts asked Mrs. Bruce Lentz to organize a library committee. The committee accepted donations of books and money. It also raised funds by staging the melodrama The Curse of the Aching Heart. The performers were Barbara Blecher, Bill Miller, Al Zettler, Faye Hoffman, Barbara Cooling and JoAnn Baaske.
Although the establishment of the library was the idea of Village Board President William T. Roberts, the work was carried out by a women’s club, which makes its history similar to those of the Riverside Public Library (RPL), the Arlington Heights Memorial Library (AHML), the Downers Grove Public Library (DFPL), the Berwyn Public Library (BPL), the Algonquin Area Public Library District (AAPLD), and the Barrington Area Public Library District (BAPLD) previously profiled. In 1965, the new Woodridge Woman’s Club petitioned the Woodridge Village Board to be placed in charge of operating the library.
The Village Board acquiesced. Consequently, the all-volunteer Woodridge Village Library opened on September 17, 1966. It was located in the lower level of the old Woodridge Village Hall.
The Woodridge Village Library was open six days a week. Members of the Woodridge Woman’s Club volunteered their time to check-out books for library patrons and provide reading times for children.
President Roberts asked the Woman’s Club to begin preparing for a referendum to authorize the creation of a tax-supported library as provided for by Illinois statutes. On April 18, 1967, Woodridge residents voted 137 to 73 in favor of establishing a public library supported by a tax rate of 12 cents per $100 of assessed valuation.
Elected to the Library’s first Board were Hester Thuerk, Helen Zettler, Jeff Hunnicutt, Phillip Muehleck, Roman Lins, and Florence McCarthy. Hester Thurek became board president, Helen Zettler became board secretary, Hunnicutt became finance director, Muehleck became chairman of the Building Committee, Lins became policy director, and Florence McCarthy became Public Relations director.
The Woodridge Public Library Board’s first meeting was in May of 1967. It was already a member of Suburban Library System, which today is part of the Metropolitan Library System, one of nine Illinois Regional Library Systems that will soon merge into two, one stretching from the border with Wisconsin down to Central Illinois, and the other stretching from Central Illinois down to the border with Kentucky.
In January of 1969, the Woodridge Public Library Board bought a house with less than 1,000 square feet at 2916 Forest Glen Parkway. The Library Board also purchased second hand library equipment. In March of 1969, Laurie Kagann was hired as Head Librarian. She was the first professional librarian on staff.
Myra Mahlke was elected to the Board in April of 1969 and remained on the board until her death in August of 2010. Sh
e would serve as board president for many years.
On June 14, 1969, the Woodridge Public Library opened in its new location with a collection of 553 books. There were two more employees on staff by the Grand Opening of the Library on September 20, 1969. The Library was open from 12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Mondays and Thursdays, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Tuesdays and Fridays, and from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on Saturdays. There are no circulation statistics for that first year, but the Woodridge Public Library circulated 700 items in its second year and 18,398 items in its third year.
In September of 1970, the originally board president, Hester Thuerk, resigned as she was about to move out of Woodridge. The board unanimously elected Myra Mahlke to succeed her. Mrs. Mahlke continued to serve as board president until her death.
By 1971 the WPL house was becoming increasingly cramped. On June 5, 1972, a new library building opened at 2815 West 75th Street. In September of that same year, Carol Iffland, the first Children’s Librarian, was hired.
In April, 1977, the demos voted 1,590 to 1,545 to approve the sale of bonds to finance construction of a new building. The architectural firm William Baldwin & Associates designed the new WPL building at 2525 Center Drive, which was dedicated on October 7, 1979.
Mrs. Kagann resigned in 1986, and Ms. Mary Sue Brown became the new Library Administrator. Library hours increased until they reached 72 hours per week, including Friday evenings and Sunday afternoons. The collection grew to 100,000 volumes. Collections of videocassettes, books on cassette, and music CDs were added to that of books. Circulation rose to 400,000 items per year. Seating slowly disappeared as shelves were added to accommodate growing collections.
The Board of Trustees commissioned “library building consultant Anders Dahlgren to develop a building program statement.” It was the consultant’s recommendation in the Building Program Statement, finished in the autumn of 1992, that the WPL building expand to 51,000 square feet to accommodate collections projected to reach 175,000 books and 17,000 audiovisual items for “a projected jurisdictional population of 39,000,” according to the WPL.
In April of 1995, a second building referendum passed 1,206 to 911, in which voters approved the sale of $5,700,000 in bonds for expansion and renovation. The architectural firm of Carow Architects & Planners designed the 31,000-square-foot addition and renovation of the original 19,000-square-foot building. The project, partially funded by an Illinois State Library (ISL) Grant, was completed in September, 1997.
The WPL continues to add new services and formats, including the introduction of databases available 24/7, DVDs, wireless Internet access, audiobooks on CD, downloadable audiobooks, e-book formats, and electronic game tournaments for young adults. A Spanish language collection serves the village’s largest growing population group (based on the 2000 census). In 2001, the Library’s circulation reached 500,000. In the fiscal year that ended in April of 2009, more than 607,000 items were circulated.
Ms. Brown retired in June of 2007, and was replaced by Ms. Susan Roberts, who, unfortunately, passed away not long after she took the position. At the board meeting held on December 19, 2007, the Woodridge Library Board of Trustees appointed Mrs. Susan McNeil-Marshall the Library Administrator. She had been Interim Administrator since Susan Roberts became ill in September. Mrs. McNeil-Marshall had been the Head of the Adult/Young Adult Department since January of 2002.
Mrs. McNeil-Marshall stated, “I have been privileged to work at Woodridge the last few years and am very excited about the opportunity to be the administrator here. The Woodridge community really uses its library, and working the reference desk has enabled me to get to know many of the residents and their concerns. My door will always be open to patrons who want to let me know how we are doing.”
She has an undergraduate degree from the University of Denver and a Masters in Library Science (MLS) from the University of Illinois’sGraduate School of Library & Information Science (GSLIS). Before she joined the WPL, she headed library reference departments at Finer Lakes Community College in Canandaigua, New York, at a three-branch library system in Kansas City, Kansas, and at the Thomas Ford Memorial Libraryin Western Springs, Illinois and the Hinsdale Public Library in Hinsdale, Illinois.
Mrs. McNeil-Marshall is also president of the Rotary Club of Woodridge. She, her husband, and their two sons reside in Downers Grove.
The Circulation Desk is in the spacious lobby, which has north and south entrances. There are small plazas to the north and west of the library building, and there is a parking lot to the south of the building, shared with other municipal buildings. From the lobby, one can proceed east into the Adult/Young Adult Department, or up to the Children’s Department on the second level.
The Adult/Young Adult Department encompasses most of the building, including the oldest part of the facility that originally opened in 1979. It includes CDs, DVDs, Adult/Young Adult Stacks, the Adult/Young Adult Department Reference Desk, Adult/Young Adult Study Area, the Young Adult Area (also known as The Corner), paperback bestseller wracks, paperback spinners, magazines and newspapers, meeting rooms, two computer areas for accessing the Internet and writing documents (such as homework and resumes), and online database computer stations.
Throughout the year, the Friends of the Library book sale, located in the WPL Lobby south of the Circulation Desk, offers for sale second hand books, magazines, and audiovisual tapes and discs. The materials for sale come from items weeded from the WPL collections and from public donations. Donated books and audiovisual tapes and discs “must be in clean and undamaged condition.” The WPL “reserves the right to decline donations of materials that are musty or mildewed, dirty or which will not sell well.” Textbooks and encyclopedias over five years old are not accepted, nor are magazines or journals.
The Woodridge Public Library Gallery, located in the WPL’s lobby just inside the south entrance, has monthly art exhibitions by local and regional artists. There are thirty display panels, attached to each other in three units of four and one unit of three panels. Each panel measures 46” x 80”. The artist is allowed to group works of art on panels individually or with multiple pieces per panel. There is also a window display with shelves for small objects.
The Library Administrator selects artists. They can contact Mrs. Susan McNeil-Marshall by calling her at (630) 964-7899. A schedule of upcoming art displays is posted in the quarterly WPL newsletter, and on the WPL’s Web site.
Artists are booked for one month, and hang and take down their own shows within that month. Access to a loading area and a dolly are available, but WPL staff members are forbidden from helping artists either to move panels or to help artists bring artworks into or out of the library building. Artists are reminded that moving the panels in the lobby “may cause them to be less secure and increase the chance of falling, which can cause damage to art work as well as to patrons.”
The WPL supplies the artist with a hammer, picture hangers for artworks and Velcro tabs on which to hang picture labels. The WPL prefers artworks “with securely attached screw-in eye hooks and wires.”
Artists must supply the labels themselves. The WPL recommends business card stock labels “with the name of the piece and price, if for sale, or NFS if not.” Artists should try to provide autobiographical information, as well as info on their artworks, “and/or their philosophy as part of the display.”
Three-dimensional artworks such as masks “are acceptable if they can be securely hung on panels. Pastels must be
covered with glass or plexiglass to prevent transfer of color to the panels or other works.”
The WPL may provide expandable display racks for artists to display matted works for sake. A matted work for sale should have a removable label on its back with the name of the artist, the artist’s phone number, the name of the matted work, and its price. WPL circulation staff will accept the money, placing the money and label in an envelope for the artist.
At the end of the month, the Circulation staff will give the artist Interest Comment sheets kept at the Main Circulation Desk with the name and phone number or e-mail of library patrons who have asked to purchase a work of art on a display panel or who expressed an interest in discussing the artist’s work with the artist.
The WPL does not take a commission for any art work that is sold, but the WPL also does have the capability to take credit card payments. Artists are forewarned that the WPL is not responsible for damage to artworks or loss of artworks.
Books, magazines, audio-books (books on tape and books on CD), CD/DVD-Roms, music CDs, videotapes, non-fiction DVDs, and TV series on DVD can all be checked out for three weeks at a time. Feature films and children’s videos on DVD can only be checked out for one week at a time. Overdue fines accrue at a rate of ten cents per day.
The Woodridge Public Library is open from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Saturdays, and from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Sundays, It will be closed Easter Sunday, Memorial Day, Independence Day (July 4th), Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve (December 24th), and Christmas Day (December 25th), and will close early (at 5:00 p.m.) at New Year’s Eve (December 31st) and New Year’s Day (January 1st). This year (2011), Easter Sunday is April 24th, Memorial Day is May 30th, Labor Day is September 5th, and Thanksgiving Day is November 24th.
The Woodridge Public Library is part of the Metropolitan Library System, one of nine Illinois Regional Library Systems that will shortly merge into two, one that stretches from the border with Wisconsin down to the western part of Central Illinois, and another that will stretch down from Central Illinois to the border with Kentucky. The phone number at the WPL is (630) 964-7899.