Local History Local History from Darien, Willowbrook, and Burr Ridge!

Willowbrook Public Library District

In 1978, Village President Edwin Schmittschmitt appointed a committee to investigate creating a public library. The committee included Melissa Gregory, Harriet Dewey, Blanche Jaros, Matthew Stala, and Secretary Karen Kesner. The Village of Willowbrook needed 12, 000 taxpayers to qualify for federal funds to create a public library district. After the City of Darien and the Village of Burr Ridge rejected Willowbrook’s invitation to jointly form a library district, in 1979 the committee received a $77,000 Project Plus Project grant for a trial library. Since the Project Plus grant required a tax base of 15,000 people, the Village included some unincorporated areas as part of the library district. The grant stipulated that a referendum on the establishment of a tax-supported library had to be held the in November 1980.

The “project” library opened April 16, 1980 at 305 West 75th Street in the Willow Commons Shopping Center with a book collection of 3,500volumes and a professional staff. The library was open Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday from 10:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. The demonstration library was a success, and in November 1980 residents approved the creation of the Willowbrook Public Library District. Subsequent referendums in April 1981 and in November 1981, successfully annexed additional adjoining unincorporated areas.

The City of Darien also received a grant for a demonstration library which led to the Darien Public Library District. The Willowbrook and Darien Public libraries were within one mile of each other, were in storefront locations, and were struggling financially. On July 1, 1988, the libraries merged to become the Indian Prairie Public Library District. Although Mr. SchmittSchmitt’s initial efforts to combine library services was rejected, he correctly predicted that “some day, residents of Burr Ridge, Willowbrook, and Darien . . . will join together to form a joint library system.” Suburban Life August 24, 1979.

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