This year marks the thirtieth anniversary of the Indian Prairie Public Library, which is a district library rather than a municipal library. The Indian Prairie Public Library District encompasses most of Darien and Willowbrook, parts of Burr Ridge, and a number of surrounding unincorporated areas in west suburban DuPage County. There are 21,576 cardholders. The building is located at the southwest corner of Plainfield Road and Clarendon Hills Road.
The architecture of the 43,400-square-foot red-and-brown brick building, evokes a combination of a Medieval-era church, monastery, and manor house. Walking around the library building, it looks fine, but looking down on it from above, it has a strange shape, as if the architect originally intended to give it a cruciform shape, but the transept is lop-sided. The south semi-transept dwarfs the north semi-transept to the point that the east face of the south transept is parallel with the choir, and there is a tower tucked in between the south semi-transept and the nave.
Its location is especially convenient for students at three schools. It is between two schools on the same (south) side of the street. The parish complex for Our Lady of Peace Church and School is just three (rather wide) blocks to the southeast at the northeast corner of Plainfield Road and 75th Street. Kingswood Academy, an independent Catholic (preschool-through-eighth-grade) school with a classical curriculum, is located two (rather wide) blocks to the northeast at the junction of Plainfield Road and Eleanor Place. Hinsdale South High School is located at the northeast corner of 75th Street and Clarendon Hills Road.
Across the street from the Indian Prairie Public Library are two businesses the Darien Minuteman gas station at the northwest corner of Plainfield Road and Clarendon Hills Road, and next door, the Darien Animal Clinic on Plainfield Road. These two business are surrounded by Darien Community Park, which is shaped somewhat like a capital P, with the vertical staff on Plainfield Road leading up into the horizontal part stretching to Clarendon Hills Road. Between Our Lady of Peace and Indian Prairie Public Library, the Darien Park District also has the Darien Sportsplex.
Figure 1 Credit: S.M. O’Connor Caption: This is the north side of the Indian Prairie Library building on Plainfield Road, seen here on Saturday, July 17, 2010.
Figure 2 Credit: S.M. O’Connor Caption: The Indian Prairie Library is so brightly illuminated that when it was enshrouded by fog on the night of Sunday, January 21, 2018, it remained visible like a lighthouse. This is the north side of the building on Plainfield Road.
Figure 3 Credit: S.M. O’Connor Caption: This is the west face of the Indian Prairie Library building, seen here on Saturday, July 17, 2010. A small gable on the first floor extension mirrors the larger gable above and behind it on the third floor. Three drive-through drop-off boxes allow patrons to return books and other media without getting out of their cars.
Figure 4 Credit: S.M. O’Connor Caption: This is the west face and the west side of the south face of the Indian Prairie Library building, seen here from the parking lot on Saturday, July 17, 2010. A large traffic island with landscaping separates the drive-through from the parking lot. In addition to the lamp posts, flagpole, and mailbox we can see were here in 2010, there is now a recycling bin in the plaza as of 2018.
Figure 5 S.M. O’Connor Caption: This is the west face and the west side of the south face of the Indian Prairie Library building, seen here from the parking lot on Saturday, July 17, 2010. The whole building has brown bricks on the first floor and red bricks on the second and third floors.
Figure 6 Credit: S.M. O’Connor Caption: Even mid-day in the middle of the workweek, the Indian Prairie Public Library is busy. I took this photograph around 1:00 p.m. on Wednesday, January 24, 2018.
Figure 7 Credit: S.M. O’Connor Caption: This is a closer view of both the west face and the south face of the Indian Prairie Public Library, as seen on Wednesday, January 24, 2018.
Willowbrook incorporated in 1959, and Darien incorporated ten years later. The Darien Library was founded in 1978 as a volunteer library. The Willowbrook Library opened in 1980 as a Project PLUS demonstration library. In 1981, a new Darien Library opened as another Project PLUS demonstration library. The Illinois State Library made Project PLUS grants that ran for one year. PLUS was an acronym for “Promoting Larger Units of Service.” The Project PLUS grants could only be granted to district libraries. The idea was to promote the establishment of library districts in areas underserved by municipal libraries. The grant was contingent on a referendum being held within 9 months to confirm a change in status to library district.
On September 14, 1982, President Gregory of the Willowbrook Public Library District Board of Trustees appointed a committee of trustees and staff members to develop a Five Year Plan, chaired by trustee Elizabeth Angelus. The Suburban Library System, one of the predecessors of the Reaching Across Illinois Library System (R.A.I.L.S.) assisted this committee.
In 1986, the Darien Library District served 16,622 people, and Willowbrook Library District served 17,227 people. They estimated that if they merged, the new library would serve 45,000 people by 1997, and 60,000 people by 2007. In 1987, consultant Steve H. Larson recommended the two libraries proceed with merger plans and that the amalgamated library open on July 1, 1990. In 1988, the Northern Illinois University (N.I.U.) Public Opinion Laboratory (P.O.L.) produced a report based on a survey of 449 residents of Dairen, Willowbrook, and other places served by the Indian Prairie Public Library District by NIU POL staff. Not quite 63% had visited the library in the past year. About two-fifths did not know the libraries of Darien and Willowbrook were due to merge on July 1, 1988.
On November 30, 1987, at the Joint Committee Meeting of the Whole of the Boards of Trustees, the name “Indian Prairie” was chosen. Alternative names that were rejected included the Amy van Allen Library, Ben Franklin Library, Bibliolibrary, BookLime, Book Worm, Books “R” Us, Books & Such, Bookword, Cass Library, Clarendon Plains Library, Daribrook Public Library, Darien-Willowbrook Library, Daybrook, Farmingdale Public Library, Knowledge Library, Kristina Costaras Library, La Grande Bibliotheque, Marionbrook Public Library, New Darien Library, Wildarbrook, Willien Library, Willow Hills Library, South West Library District, and Plain Corner Library.
In 1989, a bond referendum on construction of a new library failed to pass. In October of 1990, Anders C. Dahlgren and Pat Hogan of Library Planning Associates, Inc. submitted “Building Programs Statement: A description of the space needs in an expanded facility for the Indian Prairie Public Library District.” The next year, Indian Prairie Public Library’s Financial Advisor, Larson, suggested (another) bond referendum be tried. Before the new library building was built, the library served 44,000 residents of three municipalities and unincorporated areas from an 8,500-square-foot storefront library. It depended heavily on ILL (interlibrary loan) to supplement 71,000 volumes.
In 1993, Bob Kampwirth, President of the Library Board; Lee Schacht, Library Director; and Steve Reardon, Chairman of Citizens for A New Indian Prairie Library spearheaded the drive for a referendum in 1993 to approve the sale of $4,950,000 in bonds “to construct, furnish, and equip a new library, to be built on the centrally located four acres owned by Indian Prairie.” A total of 230 people participated. The referendum was about the construction of a 34,000-square-foot library. These bonds are to be paid off by a property tax levy over twenty years. The assessment would be $19 a year for a family whose home had a market value of $150,000. The referendum passed 3,414 to 2,725 on November 2, 1993.
The Indian Prairie Public Library sued the original architects and general contractor over building defects after a water leak shortly after the library opened in 1996. The library got $570,000 from Glen Ellyn-based LZT/Filliung Architects and $300,000 from Chicago-based general contractor Paul H. Schwendener, Inc. in a settlement. As of 2003, there was 4,000 square feet of unused space on the second floor, but with the help of Winnetka-based WCT Architects, Inc. the Youth Services Department expanded to occupy half the unused space.
Starting in 2000, the library recorded accounts of World War II by local veterans as part of the Federally-funded Veteran’s History Project. These are oral history interviews (the specialty of the late Studs Terkel). Reference Librarian Joe Popowitch told Petras Barcas for a 2008 Suburban Life article that the interview process takes twenty-five-to-forty hours from start to finish. By January of 2008, volunteers had interviewed sixty-three vets. The project received more attention from the local press in 2008 when dozens of vets and their wives attended an event at the library in May of 2008 where teenage girls on the Teen Advisory Board dressed up as U.S.O. girls handed out candy and the Tres Bella group performed as the Andrew Sisters.
Jamie Bukovic has been Director since January of 2006. Previously, she was Director of the Hinsdale Public Library from September of 2003 to December of 2005. Prior to that, she was Assistant Director of the Downers Grove Public Library from 1989 to 2003. She sat on the S.W.A.N. (System Wide Automated Network) Board from 2003 to 2013. For at least part of that time, she served as Chair and Treasurer. She earned her M.L.S. degree at the School of Library and Information Science at Dominican University (formerly Rosary College).
Laura Birmingham is the Assistant Director. Tony Lucarelli is the Head of Adult Services. Debbie Sheehan is the Head of Circulation Services. Natalie Williams is the Head of Kids & Teens Services. Anne Stovall is the Head of Technology & Technical Services.
Library Director Jamie Bukovac reported in 2006, the Indian Prairie Public Library considered installing a drive-through window, but of 4,850 patrons surveyed, only 1,000 said they would use it, according to an article by Jane Michaels published in The Doings.
The Indian Prairie Public Library had more than 170,000 items by 2010. It was visited by more than 1,050 people a day.
The plaza in front of the Indian Prairie Public Library is dotted with decorative lamp posts. Beside the plaza is the Dimpy Pathria Memorial Garden. In front of the south semi-transept is the Reading Garden.
The green landscape outside provides a park-like setting. It is not, however, literally a park, so don’t go picnicking or throwing Frisbees outside the library.
Figure 8 Credit: S.M. O’Connor Caption: Across from the Indian Prairie Public Library are the Darien Minuteman gas station, at the northwest corner of Plainfield Road and Clarendon Hills Road, and next door, the Darien Animal Clinic on Plainfield Road, seen here on Saturday, July 17, 2010.
Figure 9 Credit: S.M. O’Connor Caption: This is the sign in front of the north face of the Indian Prairie Public Library, which is visible to motorists or pedestrians on Plainfield Road, as seen on Saturday, July 17, 2010.
Figure 10 Credit: S.M. O’Connor Caption: This is the north semi-transept of the Indian Prairie Public Library, which is visible to motorists or pedestrians on Plainfield Road, as seen on Saturday, July 17, 2010.
Figure 11 Credit: S.M. O’Connor Caption: This is the landscaping east of the Indian Prairie Public Library, as seen on Saturday, July 17, 2010.
Figure 12 Credit: S.M. O’Connor Caption: This is the east face of the Indian Prairie Public Library, as seen from beneath the tree canopy on Saturday, July 17, 2010.
Figure 13 Credit: S.M. O’Connor Caption: This is the east face of the Indian Prairie Public Library, as seen from beyond landscaping, on Saturday, July 17, 2010.
Figure 14 Credit: S.M. O’Connor Caption: This is the east face of the Indian Prairie Public Library, as seen on Saturday, July 17, 2010.
Figure 15 Credit: S.M. O’Connor Caption: This is the east face of the Indian Prairie Public Library, and part of the enormous south semi-transept, as seen on Saturday, July 17, 2010.
Figure 16 Credit: S.M. O’Connor Caption: This is the enormous south semi-transept, with the Reading Garden on the left, as seen on Saturday, July 17, 2010.
Figure 17 Credit: S.M. O’Connor Caption: This is the Reading Garden in front of the enormous south semi-transept of the Indian Prairie Public Library, as seen on Saturday, July 17, 2010.
Figure 18 Credit: S.M. O’Connor Caption: This is the plaza and Reading Garden in front of the Indian Prairie Public Library’s main entrance, seen here on Saturday, July 17, 2010.
Figure 19 Credit: S.M. O’Connor Caption: This is how the plaza in front of the Indian Prairie Public Library’s main entrance appeared on Saturday, July 17, 2010. The landscaping has changed but the plaza continues to have multiple decorative lamp posts.
Figure 20 Credit: S.M. O’Connor Caption: This is how the south side of the extension of the west face of the Indian Prairie Public Library as seen from the plaza on Saturday, July 17, 2010. This is how the building, landscaping, and plaza appeared back then with tables, flagpole, and bicycle rack in the plaza.
On Wednesday, March 21, 2012, the Indian Prairie Public Library Board of Trustees voted unanimously to give Sebert Landscaping to design new landscaping in front of the building. The old landscaping was expensive to maintain. Sebert Landscaping had previously installed the bricks for the Reading Garden and placed the low bid in 2012 to maintain the landscaping. The Dimpy Pathria Memorial Garden was one of three beds that Sebert Landscaping designed.
Figure 21 Figure 22 Credit: S.M. O’Connor Caption: This is the Dimpy Pathria Memorial Garden beside the plaza in front of the Indian Prairie Public Library, as seen on Wednesday, January 24, 2018.
Figure 23 Credit: S.M. O’Connor Caption: This bronze plaque identifies the Dimpy Pathria Memorial Garden beside the plaza in front of the Indian Prairie Public Library, as seen on Wednesday, January 24, 2018.
Figure 24 Credit: S.M. O’Connor Caption: This pergola with lattice roof covers four benches in the Reading Garden, near the plaza in front of the Indian Prairie Public Library, as seen on Wednesday, January 24, 2018. This appears to be a good place to read and discuss books in warmer weather. One of the ways one can financially support the Indian Prairie Public Library is to commemorate a person, memory, or event with a brick in the Brick Path of the Reading Garden.
Figure 25 Credit: S.M. O’Connor Caption: One of the bibliophilic quotes painted in the stairway is from Thomas Jefferson, as seen here on Wednesday, January 24, 2018.
The tower at its entrance houses a broad, winding stairway that connects the lobby and adult departments on the ground floor with the departments for teenagers and children on the second floor. [Alternatively, one can take an elevator in the lobby.] Bibliophilic quotes from Dr. Seuss (1904-1991) and President Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) are painted on the walls of the staircase. The Dr. Seuss quote is “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you earn, the more places you’ll go.” It is from I Can Read with My Eyes Shut! The Thomas Jefferson quote is “I cannot live without books.” It is taken from a line in a letter he wrote to fellow Founding Father and former president John Adams (1735-1826), dated Saturday, June 10, 1815. Jefferson wrote, “I cannot live without books; but fewer will suffice where amusement, and not use, is the only future object.”
The Indian Prairie Public Library Foundation and Friends of the Library merged to form the Indian Prairie Public Library Foundation & Friends. Founded in 1986, Friends of the Library raised over $200,000 to fund special programs including the travel series, movie series, concerts, and lectures on art and opera. It also funded summer programs for children, teenagers, and adults. Founded in 1994, the Indian Prairie Public Library Foundation raised over $245,600 to fund the acquisition of books, audiobooks, and C.D.s, as well as programming, technology, and furniture. The Indian Prairie Public Library Foundation purchased a Clavinova digital piano that cardholders can use to compose and practice music. The I.P.P.L. Foundation administered the Chan Memorial Fund, created in honor of violinist Chee-Jun Chan, through which the I.P.P.L. Foundation funded the acquisition of classical music C.D.s and the Chan Concert Series of live classical music concerts. It also administered The Dimpy Pathria Memorial Fund, through which the I.P.P.L. Foundation funded the Dimpy Pathria Memorial Garden and library materials. Indian Prairie Public Library Foundation & Friends is a 501(C)3 charitable organization. The I.P.P.L. Foundation & Friends has purchased a 3D Printer, a document feeder for the scanner, a MacBook computer and Apple software for public use, Playaway Launchpad tablets for children, iPads for coding classes for children and teenagers, WiFi hotspots, a CNC milling machine, and furniture for a maker space for children.
One can donate money to I.P.P.L. Foundation & Friends online here or by making a check out to “IPPL Foundation & Friends” and mailing it to Indian Prairie Public Library Foundation & Friends, 401 Plainfield Road, Darien, Illinois 60561. The I.P.P.L. Foundation & Friends accept donations of books (in good condition), D.V.D.s, and C.D.s to sell at the Inspiration Café. [Note this is a “café” in name only, as it resembles an employee break room with vending machines.] They cannot accept donations of encyclopedia volumes, magazines, moldy or damaged books, V.H.S. tapes, or audiotapes. One of the ways one can financially support the Indian Prairie Public Library is to commemorate a person, memory, or event with a bookplate, a brick in the Brick Path of the Reading Garden, or a plate in the Donor Tree mounted on a wall in the library lobby. A bookplate costs $25, a 4” x 8” brick with three lines costs $75, an 8” x 8” brick with six lines costs $150, a leaf on the Donor Tree costs $250, a small stone at the base of the Donor Tree costs $1,500, and a large boulder at the base of the Donor Tree costs $5,000. Click here for details. One can also support the Indian Prairie Public Library when shopping online through AmazonSmile and iGive. For more details, click here. One can also call the Administration Office at (630) 887-0945 to discuss making a donation.
In Fiscal Year 2016-2017, the Indian Prairie Public Library provided materials to seventy-seven book clubs, over 2,000 people received computer and technology training, 600 people attended thirty workshops over three hours at the How-To Expo, 141 people came to see thirty authors at the Local Author Fair, 260 people attended Free Comic Book Day, and 241 volunteers donated 4,505 man-hours. Under the Food for Fines program, patrons donated 1,953 items to food pantries at Our Lady of Peace and Our Lady of Mount Carmel. The estate of Marion E. Weston donated $10,000, the Friends of the I.P.P.L. raised $8,140, the I.P.P.L. Foundation raised $5,663, the Sadowski family donated $2,685, and the Darien Woman’s Club donated $1,131. The Indian Prairie Public Library reported it owned 139,349 books, 248,687 eBooks, 24,942 D.V.S.s and Blu-rays, 32,617 streaming movies, 10,086 music C.D.s, 281,004 streaming music albums, 8,068 audiobooks, 55,320 downloadable audiobooks, and 623 console games. It had subscriptions to 416 magazines and newspapers, eighty-one eMagazines, and fifty-four online resource databases. People visited the Indian Prairie Public Library physically 436,356 times and the Website www.ippl.info 317,389 times. Patrons borrowed 694,274 items. The Indian Prairie Public Library answered 104,858 questions, and delivered 1,796 items to homebound cardholders. Library Journal named Youth Librarian Tyler Works 2017 Mover & Shaker.
As part of thirtieth anniversary celebrations, the Indian Prairie Public Library has artists in residence. Sally Monkus, a Downers Grove resident, is the Artist in Residence for January, February, and March. She is working in the lobby on Wednesdays from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. This month, her works are also being displayed on the second floor. When I visited the library again on Wednesday, January 24, 2018, she was making decorative boxes in the lobby.
The interior is decorated and furnished to create a wholesome, almost cozy environment. Everyone I encountered on my visit there in 2010 was polite and friendly. Yesterday, after I gave my seven-year-old niece a tour of the facility, let her play in the family corner, and explained some things about libraries, she exclaimed, “That was awesome!”
The address is 401 Plainfield Road, Darien, Illinois 60561. The phone number there is (630) 887-8760. Regular business hours are 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Sundays, 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, and 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Saturdays.
 On January 26, 1802, Thomas Jefferson, principal author of the Declaration of Independence (1776), President of the United States (1801-1809), and founder of the Democratic-Republican Party (now the Democratic Party), signed legislation regarding the Library of Congress with four important provisions. First, it authorized the creation of the office of Librarian of Congress. Second, it gave Presidents of the United States authority to appoint Librarians of Congress. Third, it gave Congress authority through a Joint Committee on the Library to establish a budget, rules, and regulations for the Library of Congress. Fourth, it gave Presidents and Vice Presidents of the United States authority to borrow books from the LOC. Two of these provisions ended the Library of Congress belonging exclusively to Congress and effectively meant it was part of two of the three branches of the U.S. Government. President Jefferson appointed the first two Librarians of Congress. Both men worked part-time because they worked concurrently as Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives. Originally, the Library of Congress was housed in the U.S. Capitol Building. British troops burned and pillaged the original reference library in August of 1814, when they set fire to the Capitol Building during the War of 1812. Within a month, former President Thomas Jefferson offered his personal library, widely considered one of the finest in the United States, as a replacement. He had amassed a collection of thousands of books over a period of fifty years “putting by everything which related to America, and indeed whatever was rare and valuable in every science.” Jefferson’s library included volumes of philosophy, science, and literature, some of which were in foreign languages. This was a much more comprehensive library than the more narrowly-focused law library one might expect to find in a legislature, but he argued the whole collection would be of interest to Congress. He wrote, “I do not know that it contains any branch of science which Congress would wish to exclude from their collection; there is, in fact, no subject to which a Member of Congress may not have occasion to refer.” In January 1815, Congress accepted Jefferson’s offer, appropriating $23,950 for his 6,487 books, and the foundation was laid for a great national library. Readers should keep in mind Jefferson was an oligarch, not a plutocrat, so he was land-rich and cash-poor, and was actually in debt in his later years.
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