Waukegan Public Library Michelle Obama 2013 medal

WPL receives 2013 Medal for Museum and Library Service.

The Waukegan Public Library serves the city of Waukegan, where Shimer was located from 1979 to 2006. The Shimer library was housed in the basement of the Waukegan Public Library for most of the Waukegan period. Shortly before the school's departure, in 2005-2006, a mural on "the Art of the Story" was designed and painted by a corps of Waukeganites and Shimerians, under the leadership of Shimer faculty member Stuart Patterson.

Many of the books that had been housed in the WPL basement were sold in a special book sale in early 2007.



The Waukegan Public Library is the public library serving Waukegan. It is located at 128 North County, at the intersection of County and Clayton streets, adjoining the county government complex.

The library has 224,390 books, with a total of 338,615 library visits in fiscal year 2005.[1] In addition to its main location in downtown Waukegan, the library operates a branch in Hinkston Park, on the city's northwest side.[2]


As with many towns across the United States, Waukegan was served by private subscription libraries for many decades before acquiring a public library. The first of these was the "Little Fort Reading Room and Library Association", housed in the courthouse and established in 1845.[3] This was followed by the Young Men’s Association Library in the 1860s, and finally by the Sesame Club in the 1890s, which sought to estabish a free public library. After successfully operating a free library for two years, the Club appealed to the Waukegan city government for support, and in 1898 the Waukegan Public Library was formally created when the city took ownership of the Sesame Club's library.

However, the library still lacked an actual building. This situation was not remedied until 1903, when the Carnegie Foundation provided $25,000 to the city to support construction of a library building, in exchange for the city providing a building site and guarantee of annual support.[3] The Carnegie library, which still stands as of 2013, was located at the corner of Sheridan Road and Washington Street. During the 1930s, the library provided a frequent refuge for the young Ray Bradbury.

In the 1950s, as Waukegan's expanding population began to exceed what the small Carnegie library could serve, the library began to operate bookmobiles, the first coming into service in 1956 and the second in 1962.[3] The "Friends of the Waukegan Public Library" organization was formed in 1963.[3]

The limestone building currently occupied by the Waukegan Public Library, located at the corner of County and Clayton streets, was opened for business on December 27, 1965.[3][4] A major renovation in 1998 added some 16,000 square feet, while remaining faithful to the building's original esthetic.[3][4] In 2008, based on analysis of the need for literacy exposure among Waukegan kindergarten students, the library opened a 2,000-square-foot Early Learning Center in the children's department.[3] Further renovations the following year created an area known as the "Literacy Suite", which hosts one-on-one and group tutoring in literacy and computer skills.[3]

After Shimer College moved to Waukegan in 1979, much of the school's library was housed in the basement of the Waukegan Public Library, due to the school itself having insufficient space.[5] This made it nearly unique among municipal libraries in housing a college's main collection within its own. The college and library maintained numerous ties, including the painting of a mural on "the Art of the Story" on the library building in 2004.[6] After Shimer left for Chicago in 2006, the space that had been used for the Shimer collection was repurposed.

In 2013, the Waukegan Public Library was selected as one of ten recipients of the National Medal for Museum and Library Service, "the nation’s highest honor conferred on museums and libraries for service to the community and celebrates institutions that make a difference for individuals, families, and communities," awarded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services.[7] The award was based on the library's successful work in providing literacy and ESL instruction.[8]

Services and holdingsEdit

As of 2005, the Waukegan Public Library held 224,390 books and serial volumes, or 2.55 for every person in its service area.[1] It also held more than 18,000 video materials and more than 16,000 audio materials. Circulation in 2005 was 479,603, nearly 2 checkouts per resource and more than 5 per capita.

As of 2011, the library had 73 computer terminals for library users.[9] The library offers tutoring and small group classes in computer skills.

The city of Waukegan has a Hispanic population more than three times that of Illinois as a whole.[8] 55% of Waukeganites are non-native speakers of English.[8] In recognition of this, the library offers extensive educational programs in English as a second language.[10] In 2012, it began the "Promotoras Ambassador Program", which sends trained volunteers into the community to better assess the types of library programs that are needed.[10] Among the initiatives that the library embarked upon based on the feedback from the community ambassadors was the Conversational ESL Program, which in its first year graduated 255 students, most of whom went on to received GEDs.[8]

Children's programs offered by the library include the Bus to Us program, which was established in 2011 in response to the effect of cuts to funding for field trips by public schools, which had left many children without any way to reach the library.[10] In 2013, the But to Us program received the Upstart Innovation Award from the Public Library Association, a branch of the American Library Association.[10]


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Libraries Detail for Waukegan Public Library". Library Statistics Program. Retrieved 2013-05-12. 
  2. "Hours and Locations". Waukegan Public Library. Retrieved 2013-05-13. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 "A Brief History of the Library". Waukegan Public Library. Retrieved 2013-05-12. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 "Waukegan Public Library". Bleck & Bleck Architects, Inc.. Retrieved 2013-05-13. 
  5. Harold Henderson (1988-06-16). "Big Ideas". Chicago Reader. 
  6. "Shimer Mural Dedication". Shimer College. Retrieved 2013-05-13. 
  7. "National Medal for Museum and Library Service to Be Awarded Today at White House". Institute of Museum and Library Services. 2013-05-08. Retrieved 2013-05-13. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 "10. Waukegan Public Library". Institute of Museum and Library Services. 2013-05-08. Retrieved 2013-05-13. 
  9. "Collections". Waukegan Public Library. Retrieved 2013-05-15. 
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 "Waukegan library honored for its Bus to Us and ESL programs". Daily Herald. 2013-03-01. Retrieved 2013-05-15. 

See alsoEdit

External linksEdit

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