Current Size: 100%
1937 - 1986
The public library in Seneca first opened its doors in 1937 as a WPA project. It occupied a small room in what was then the Masonic Building, later to become the Community State Bank. A total of 484 books, many of which were used books from the Chicago and Evanston public libraries, circulated to 189 registered borrowers. Miss Lois Zimmerman served the community as its first librarian until 1945.
In 1945, however, the WPA withdrew and the town created the first library board and its first levy to support the library. Miss Louise Peddicord succeeded Miss Zimmerman to work with first board members F.A. Graves, G.M. Hoben, Mary Comegys, S. Sand, Clara Tendall, and W. E. Coulter. Meanwhile, the Community Bank expanded in Seneca’s post-war resurgence.
A building that had housed the Bungalow Beauty Shop became the new library. It was moved across Main Street and refurbished in 1950. From 1950 to 1963, the library’s collection grew from approximately 5,000 items to 14,000. In 1962, the donations from the town, the local bank, and the Chicago Bridge and Iron Company made it possible to open an addition that enlarged the library’s space to about 1,100 square feet.
In 1987, the board was successful in forming the Seneca Public Library District. The town was now planning for the present library: it approved a referendum to annex property; the library began surveys of patrons and reviews of building programs and financing; the board hired architects Frye, Gillan and Molinaro, and in 1989, the town approved another referendum to buy land and finance construction for a 9,450-square-foot library.
Again, the Seneca library was moved, building and all, to what is now the parking lot of the present library so that the library could provide uninterrupted service. With Vissering as general contactor, the new building opened in 1991. Eight years later, the library board was able to retired the bond issue that had financed the building.
As the Seneca Public Library District enters the 21st century, its relatively small size is deceptive. Automated in 1991, it now offers public computers, wireless access, an online library catalog with home access, unlimited interlibrary loan through its membership with the Prairie Area Library System (PALS) and from outside the system, and a range of children’s and adult services and programming. The library is open 56 hours a week, owns more than 57,000 items, attracts nearly 1,800 visitors and provides over 4,000 services per month, and spends more than $628,665 to provide modern, friendly service to its almost 3,700 cardholders.
Despite its small size, the library is a “net lender,” that is, it supplies patrons of other libraries with more materials (900 in a typical month) than it borrows (200 in a typical month) from other libraries. Overall, the library circulates approximately 56,500 items every year. The library Board of Trustees and the Director Margie Nolan place high priority on two elements of modern public library service: 1) providing old-fashioned friendly service to every person who walks in the library’s doors and 2) providing modern technology to enhance the lifestyle of this quiet rural community.
To accomplish this unique blend of the modern and the old-fashioned, library staff members perform a range of tasks to keep the collection updated and accessible on the library’s online catalogs and to offer attractive children’s and adult programs throughout the year.