New Glencoe Public Library (1942)

From Glencoe Public Library | Centennial Celebration

The following was written by Helen Beckwith, Glencoe Public Library Librarian, in 1942.

New Glencoe Public Library
Librarian, Glencoe, Ill., Public Library

A LIBRARY BUILDING combining efficiency, convenience, and attractiveness, each functioning 100 per cent without hindrance from the others, has been the aim of successive boards which have worked for the new Glencoe Public Library. Last July the concerted efforts of these many years bore fruit when the doors of the new $100,000 Glencoe Public Library were opened.

Front Entrance Of The New Glencoe Public Library
The site itself was acquired by a farseeing and quick-acting board back in 1917. The major prebuilding problem was the location of the building on the site which is a wooded and slightly rolling area of about two and one-half acres located in the very heart of the business district. While the possibility of the erection of future municipal structures was a consideration, the Library had the right of way and first choice for its location. This was the subject of long and painstaking consideration by the library board, which felt that not only was it their duty to provide a modern, well-equipped library available to those who would use it regardless of where it might be located, but also to make it as inviting and conveniently located as possible to all citizens. In other words, the public library must be "sold" to the community in the same manner as other merchandise.
Exterior Of The New Glencoe Public Library
The leading authorities, including John Adams Lowe of Rochester, N. Y., and Chalmers Hadley of Cincinnati, Ohio, were unanimously of the opinion that the building should be situated where it would be most readily accessible to the greatest number of citizens. Experience had revealed that a library building located away from the busy part of town, or even in the business district, but back some distance from the sidewalk, fails to attract the patronage enjoyed by libraries which are more accessible. And so the idea of a monumental library structure set back in the middle of the large site was definitely and finally buried so far as Glencoe was concerned. The decision was to locate on the main street frontage with the entrance, thirty-three feet away from the sidewalk, and with no steps to climb. The purpose was to make the Library accessible, informal, friendly, and inviting. Many who formerly objected to this location have approved heartily the executed plan since the erection of the building.

No parking problem has been created since many patrons come to the village in cars and do their Library "shopping" along with other errands. However, to the west of the building there is a small parking area reserved for Library patrons. During the evening rush hours, the village shops are closed and space on the streets is more than ample.

Georgian architecture is carried out in Williamsburg red brick with stone trim and a shingle tile roof. There is a front entrance, a separate one for children, and a service entrance opening into the Work Room. Glass brick, which has been used extensively on the west end, successfully shuts off the service area and adjacent alley, and also provides light for the stacks which occupy that portion. The building is its own best advertisement. Its informal exterior and its Main Reading Room visible to the passerby through a large ceiling-to-floor window reveal comfortable chairs; lamps and a crackling log fire on the hearth during the cold months make the Library an attractive village feature.

Immediately upon entering the Library, one loses the feeling of having stepped in from a busy street as he looks through the foyer and Reference Room to the vista beyond through the picture window. In summer this is a small colorful garden with an apple orchard in the distance, in winter a broad expanse of snow and trees.

On the ground floor are provided a Main Reading Room, a Children's Room, a high school alcove, a Reference Room, a Work Room, a cataloger's office, a small Conference Room, and the Librarian's office.

The second floor houses the staff room, another stack level, and a large room which is being developed for community activities. Space is provided for exhibits of local historical items, as well as storage space for such data, and shelving for book collections belonging to the Daughters of the American Revolution and other organizations in the community. This room has been dedicated to Sarah S. Hammond, Librarian Emeritus, who served the Glencoe Public Library from its active beginning in 1909 until her retirement in 1935.

For motion picture programs, story hours, book fairs, and similar activities there is a basement Assembly Room with seating capacity of two hundred and fifty. In the basement are located the heating units, undeveloped stack space for the future use of the Children's Department, and the lower level of the adult stacks, also unused at present. The ultimate book capacity is estimated at 40,000 volumes or double the collection as it now stands. The building is so planned that should the unforeseen arise, additions can be made to the structure at several points without marring the architectural design. It is the opinion of the board, however, that the building will be adequate to meet the library needs of the community for the next twenty-five years.

The building is completely insulated, and sound proofing has been used extensively. The result is that aside from the streak of yellow visible through the window at intervals, patrons are scarcely aware of the huge Northwestern streamliners which flash by only a stone's throw away.

Although the architect selected to do the job had never built a library before, he was experienced in public building construction. This combination, lack of preconceived library notions plus public building experience, proved to be ideal. Added to this was his willingness to co-operate and to do research before engaging in the project. For three years the staff had worked on floor plans, and it can truthfully be said that the architect designed a building around the needs of the Library so that function was in no instance sacrificed to beauty. The representative of a manufacturer of library furniture, the architect, and the interior decorator collaborated for months on the interior, which shows the result of their feeling for the practical carried out with good taste and restraint. Williamsburg colors have been used throughout, and wallpaper gives accent to such small items as a telephone booth, an alcove of the assembly room, and one wall of the office.

The Main Reading Room
The Main Reading Room, which is as informal and comfortable as a club lounge, is panelled in wormy chestnut with hand-carved swags on either side of the marble-faced fireplace, the note for the carving having been suggested by the Grinling Gibbons mantel in the Chicago Art Institute. The sturdy carpet-rugs are in wood tones, harmonizing with the upholstery of the comfortable chairs, sofas and floor-length curtains. The lamps with their Chinese influence carry out the Georgian feeling, which is repeated in the Chippendale railing across the second stack level.

A focal point of the Reading Room is over the fireplace where the board has hung an oil portrait of Otto R. Barnett, who labored to establish the Glencoe Public Library back in 1904 and served as president of the Library Board for twenty-five years. Since completion of the building, a trust has been turned over to the Library, the funds from which partially covered the cost of furnishing and equipping the Reading Room. This is a fitting memorial to William H. Johnson, an esteemed citizen whose home was for many years on the Library site and whose initiative and generosity made possible the acquirement of the property for the Glencoe Public Library.

The building is so designed and planned that in spite of its size and the fact that it is open to the public sixty-four hours a week, the staff consists of only four full-time librarians. This is the same number employed in the old Library, which was decidedly smaller and inconveniently arranged. In the new Library the charging desk is L-shaped with the shorter side extending into the Reference Room and the longer side fronting the delivery hall. One librarian can with ease supervise the Reference Room, the stacks, the Reading Room, the porch, the front entrance, and the door leading to the public rest rooms, located halfway between the main and lower floors. At busy hours a member of the staff serves as readers' adviser, stationed at a table-desk near the entrance.

One of the most successful features of the Library has proved to be the small high school alcove which consists of only five standard sections of old shelving enamelled and recessed in the wall. This affords space for a live collection of recreational books drawn from both the adult and juvenile departments; also a place for the display of book jackets and a few shelves of books selected to be read in connection with the curriculum.

Since the Work Room opens directly from behind the desk, a buzzer system instantly brings assistance from here when needed as well as from the cataloger's office which connects with the Work Room and also with the Reference Room. This arrangement makes the Reference and Catalog Departments readily accessible to one another.

Stacks, which are ordinarily considered a necessary evil, have been treated as a decorative part of the whole plan and even add color and interest to the first floor. The stacks are baked enamel in a soft green shade, with shelves in a dull black finish and adjustable so that they may be tilted for better visibility of titles. All lower shelves are permanently fixed at a fifteen-degree angle.

The stack aisles are five feet six inches center to center. A large floor space has been left open where two low benches upholstered in coral leather invite browsing among the books. Fluorescent lighting gives ample illumination to the stacks.

Further features for the comfort of the patron are a screened summer reading porch where he may enjoy a cigarette while reading a magazine or the evening paper. The flat roof over the Children's Room has been finished so that it may be used as a sun-deck in the future, if desired; this was used during the first summer for story hours on warm sunny days. It can readily be converted into an out-of-door reading room.

The Children's Room
Since work with children is one of the most important services of the Glencoe Public Library, a southeast exposure was assigned to this department, which with its own entrance and charging desk can function as a unit. It is also approached from the Main Library through a small entrance hall where are shelved the junior encyclopedias and books useful to high school students and younger children. In this way when the juvenile department closes at 6:00 o'clock, these books are still available.
Another View Of The Children's Room
The small foyer also has an exhibit case with glass shelves, and a shaded lumeline bulb, lighting the displays which are provided by interested villagers. The room itself is simple with colorful touches in decorative details: what-not ends on projecting shelf ranges provide space for attractive small books or objects of interest to young patrons; a large fireplace flanked by a pair of winged settles in wormy chestnut matches the wall panelling; and a bay window with a border of house plants catches the morning sun. The furniture is in a harmonizing tone of light oak and achieves variety by interspersing various-sized tables and differently styled chairs. A low bench in front of the fireplace invites the young reader to enjoy a book before a blazing log, or provides space for several listeners at a small story hour. Color has been used in this room to strike a cheerful note: lemon yellow walls; Williamsburg green wood trim; wallpaper patterned in ivy on a yellow trellis used above several sections of low shelving. Simple window-length curtains with shirred valances are made of narrow striped yellow and green material and pull back so that none of the natural light is kept out.

Floors are cement throughout. Haskelite oak blocks cover the Main Reading Room floor, while the service areas, the Reference and Children's Room have battleship linoleum. Black asphalt tile is used for all other floor covering. Heat is provided by a hot-water oil
burner, and an attic fan gives winter ventilation and summer cooling. In the basement is an air conditioner operated when the Assembly Room is in use. A humidifying system maintains a healthful and comfortable relative humidity at all times.

What of the future? The services which even the small public library will be able to render in the years ahead are boundless and still uncharted, but much of this service will depend upon die physical plants in which libraries are housed. Buildings which will be adaptable to changing conditions in a changing world will at least help librarians to meet the challenge, whatever it may be.

Architect: Allen and Webster, Chicago, Illinois; Technical Equipment: Gaylord Brothers, Syracuse, N. Y.; Stacks: Hamilton Manufacturing Company, Two Rivers, Wisconsin; and Interior Decorator: Ernst C. Von Ammon, Chicago, Illinois.

HELEN BECKWITH, a graduate of Northwestern University, Evanston, Ill., and of the Library School of the University of Illinois at Urbana, has been Librarian of the Glencoe, Ill., Public Library since 1935.