Moving into a new home brings great excitement. It’s a new beginning in a new space. Over time, it grows on you and you have a warm, happy feeling about the place.
It’s been the same at the Homewood Public Library. Over the past 25 years, community residents have become very comfortable at the library. It’s an important place in Homewood, and a space patrons are happy in.
On Saturday, the library staff marks the 25th anniversary of the opening of the building at 17917 Dixie Highway. Throughout the day, staff will welcome patrons and serve light refreshments.
Nearly 20,000 residents in Homewood and East Hazel Crest have a Homewood library card. In 2014, they checked out 437,330 items—whether that was a print book, ebook, video, audio or materials on loan from other libraries. Program attendance was up 27 percent.
Homewood Library Director Amy Crump said today people’s lives generally revolve around work, home and a third place. In Homewood people are considering the library that other special place in their lives.
“Libraries have really worked at establishing themselves as the third place,” she explained. “Libraries will always have books, but today the Homewood Library also functions as a kind of community center” with its outreach through lectures and special programs, its technology services, its meeting rooms and study and quiet areas.
“The library’s mission is still to serve the community, but the library is now a place where you can come to learn something or experience something. Libraries are recognizing that patrons’ needs have changed,” she added.
A bit of history can prove Crump’s point.
The original library was begun in 1920 as a book exchange by the Homewood Women’s Club run out of a private home. In 1923, the Illinois Central Railroad gave the group its old frame train depot for a library, and in 1927 residents voted to establish a library district.
The depot was the library’s home for 39 years before the library board, in 1962, built a brick building at 17900 Dixie Highway. As the community grew, the library’s services expanded and its space became cramped with books and cassettes.
In 1987, the library board bought property across the street for a new $2.9 million building that more than tripled the space to 35,000 square feet. Construction began in 1989, and the move-in day was Feb. 14, 1990.
Cindy Rauch, who worked at the library for 31 years and served as director for 17 years, remembers the new library as being “really big. The entire second floor was unused when we first moved in” and the library’s most innovative feature was the drive-through service window. The library also started Sunday hours with the move.
Today every space in the library is put to use, and technology has changed many of the library’s functions.
Cards stamped with return dates gave way to scan readers. The card catalog became an online catalog, and the Internet makes searches for general information much easier. DVDs and CDs are available, and the library’s digital media lab has photography, video, audio, design and animation services. Patrons can use scanners and then go to a computer to send documents by email. The library recently purchased 3-D printers.
And what of the future library? Crump doesn’t like to make predictions because technology changes are happening so fast. Yet, she says, 10 years from now “I see the library as continuing to be an asset for the community growing young readers and reaching out to people of all ages, welcoming them into their community life.”
Homewood Public Library
Contact Marilyn Thomas at [email protected]