Although the idea of having a lending library in Palos Heights in 1944 was improbable due to lack of funds and a suitable location, the library was begun as a volunteer community library by Harwell West (editor of The Regional) and the Palos Heights Woman’s Club.
The date of birth was February 28, 1944, with formal incorporation with the state of Illinois on May 8, 1944.
The Library’s first home was a front room of the Walter Ward home on the southeast corner of 122nd and Harlem. It moved in 1945 to a section of the Community Club building and moved again in 1947 into the then fire station behind the present Palos Heights Fire Protection District fire station at 123rd and Harlem, and eventually expanded to 1,000 square feet.
The library finally obtained its own 5,200 square foot building in September, 1972, at its current location, at 125th and 71st Avenue, which was expanded to 11,400 square feet in 1988. This was the library’s fourth location and appears to be its final.
In 1999, the Library Board purchased adjoining property to the west of the library, the Galloy residence. The Library Board completed a Long Range Plan in 2000 that identified the need for more space and received a planning grant from the State of Illinois, which allowed for the expansion of the parking lot in 2001. The library’s parking lot received a beautification/improvement award both from the City and the Chamber of Commerce
In 2002, following the development of a building program and the hiring of an architect, the residents of Palos Heights voted to fund an addition/renovation of the current building at a cost of $5 million to 31,448 square feet. The new building opened in the fall, 2004.
The Library became part of the city in May, 1960, when the City Council, after its incorporation in 1959, accepted a request by the library board to transfer the library into a city regulated institution. Previously, the library depended entirely on charitable contributions made chiefly by the Woman’s Club and by the Community Club from Community Fund Drives.
In August, 1944, circulation was over 100 books a week. Today, the library circulates over 165,000 items annually, with over 8,000 active cardholders and nearly 180,000 using the Library each year. In the fall of 2007, the Library began Sunday service to its residents marking a new milestone. The Library offers 24/7 access today with its website www.palosheightslibrary.org where residents can access our online card catalog and a wealth of information through a number of databases. In addition, the Library mails out a bimonthly newsletter to all residents and businesses as well as an annual report. In 2008, the Library began sending regular emails to its patrons informing them of upcoming events.
In the Library’s earliest days, it was run by volunteers. Today, twenty-five dedicated employees keep the Library open 68 hours a week. But volunteers still are important. The Library has an active Friends of the Library organization which conducts two annual book sales as well as an annual Christmastime in Palos in December. They also keep a paperback rack stocked at the Metra train station and other activities. Their fundraising efforts enhance library programs, equipment and facilities. Their newest project is to help provide “green” library book bags.
The Palos Heights Library is governed by a nine member volunteer Library Board which is appointed by the Mayor of Palos Heights with the approval of the City Council.