Plainfield Public Library District

Library District History

In 1925, Ebanezer and Celeste Nimmons left an estate of $25,000 to the Village of Plainfield for the establishment of a tax-supported public library. Residents voted to establish the library later that year. The original 750 square foot library, located on Lockport Street, opened its doors in 1926. Click here to view a construction invoice from 1926.

In 1941, a new 2,700 square foot library was built at 705 N. Illinois Street with the proceeds of a bequest from George and Marietta McClester and the remainder of the Nimmons estate.

Ebanezer and Celeste Nimmons
Ebanezer and Celeste Nimmons
George and Marietta McClester
George and Marietta McClester

In 1954, the Village Library received a 160 acre farm in a charitable remainder trust from the estate of Fannie Stratton. The library operated the farm for additional revenue for many years.

Ebanezer and Celeste Nimmons
Lockport Street looking east
towards Division Street. The
original library is the small white
building in the lower right-hand
corner, behind the pine tree.
Plainfield Public Library Board 1960s
Plainfield Public Library Board
– 1960s
Plainfield Public Library Board 1960s
Plainfield Public Library Board
May 1965

In 1977, Plainfield Township created a tax-supported library to serve residents outside of the Village of Plainfield boundaries. The Plainfield Township Library contracted with other local libraries for service. In 1981, the Township Library opened a 900 square foot library located inside Grande Prairie Elementary School.
In 1988, voters approved the merger of the Village and Township libraries, becoming the Plainfield Public Library District. During that year, the Library District sold the Stratton farm and began to plan for the construction of a 27,000 square foot facility. The library purchased residences at 707 and 709 N. Illinois Street in preparation for the expansion.

Voters rejected the first expansion proposal in 1989. The project was scaled back to finish only 13,500 feet of the 27,000 square foot building in the initial phase. Voters approved the second proposal in 1990. Construction of the library addition was one of the first projects to begin following the 1990 tornado. The building was completed in 1991.

In 1993, residents voted down an operating tax rate increase for the library. Also during that year, the Village of Plainfield and library made an intergovernmental agreement requiring areas annexing to the Village to also annex to the library district if the area did not have library service. As a result of the failed operating tax increase, the library cut service hours, eliminated staff positions, and froze the book budget in 1994. Over the next several years, the burgeoning residential building boom in the community allowed the restoration of these services.

In 1997, the lower level was completed using the remainder of the proceeds of the Stratton Farm. That year, the Village completed another intergovernmental agreement allowing the library to collect fees from developers annexing land to the Village.

A 1999 dispute between the Plainfield Library and Village of Plainfield over purchase of property adjacent to the Library building was settled in early 2000. The settlement allowed the Village of Plainfield to purchase the property, to be used immediately for the construction of a parking lot, with the Library retaining the right to purchase the property at a set price in 2010.

Plainfield Public Library Board 1960s
1965 Joliet Herald
The caption reads: “Mrs. George
Niver (top) and Mrs. John Varley,
assistant librarians, pose from
behind the stacks in a composit photo.”

The building and population boom in the area took off in the late 1990’s and continued into the new century. In early 2003, Census 2000 figures were finally released – more than doubling the district’s official population and outstripping all prior population estimates. Planning began for a library branch in a joint-use facility with the Plainfield Township Park District, based on a developer donation. However, the developer’s project did not move forward, stalling the project in the planning stage.

In 2004, the interior of the library was remodeled, funded by developer’s fees, to accommodate the changing needs of the community and maximize the use of space in the building. Outreach Services became an independent department within the Library, reflecting the Visioning 2003 plan goal to extend library service to locations outside the library building.

In 2006, the Library’s new Long Range Plan set an approximate timeline for planning a building expansion with a target for expanding the downtown facility when the library is contracted to purchase adjacent land from the Village of Plainfield in 2010. The Long Range Plan goal to increase residents’ awareness of the Library and its services led to the creation of the first Marketing Communications Plan in 2007.

Library building consultant Anders Dahlgren of Library Planning Associates worked with the Board of Trustees and Library staff to create a Space Needs Analysis in 2007 and Library Building Program in 2008. These documents formed the basis of the building expansion and operations referendum that was placed on the Spring 2009 ballot. Voters rejected the plan in April 2009.

In 2010, the building bonds from the 1990 referendum were paid off. As the economic crisis deepened, the community was surveyed on their priorities for library service in the face of budget cuts. As set forth in the 2000 settlement with the Village of Plainfield, the Library purchased the parking lot to the east of the building in 2010, the final piece needed for any expansion on the Library’s current site.

2011 was a planning year for the library. Community Open Houses on potential expansion plans indicated that the community was not yet ready to support a Library expansion referendum, though the need was recognized. A new Strategic Plan was approved by the Board of Trustees to guide Library services through 2015. The Fall Election in 2016 was noted as the next potential date for a Library Expansion referendum.

In 2012, the Board of Trustees worked with KJWW Engineering to evaluate the building and infrastructure needs of the Library in the immediate term, 3-5 years and long term. More than $2.1 million in necessary work was identified to keep the current building in operable condition. The Special Reserve Fund, the Library’s capital fund, was used to undertake the immediate term projects, which includes replacement of the HVAC and control systems, windows and the shingled portion of the roof.

A Long Range Budget Plan was developed and approved in 2013 in order to ensure that the Library financially able to make the necessary repairs and replacements as identified in the 2012 Building Evaluation. The Plan included reorganization of staff to meet these financial needs by setting aside $95,000 per year over the next 4 years for the necessary work on the building.

The Village of Plainfield partnered with the Plainfield Public Library District in 2013 to redesign and expand public parking around the Library. Utilizing the property owned by the Library and Village and paid for by the Tax Increment Finance (TIF) District, the expanded and redesigned parking lots addressed deficiencies in aisle and parking space widths while increasing the total number of parking spaces available.

Capital repairs and replacements on the building continued as needed, according to the 2012 Building Evaluation and failure of existing components and systems. In Late 2014, Anders Dahlgren of Library Planning Associates was contracted to update the 2008 Space Needs Analysis and Building Program.

Creation of a building and expansion plan to be placed on the 2016 ballot dominated 2015. Graham Harwood of CCS International was hired as Owner’s Representative. Nagle Hartray Architects was selected from a field of 15 firm responding to the public Request for Qualifications. Open houses, public meetings, and feedback surveys informed the planning process. In December 2015, the Board of Trustees voted to place two questions on the March 15, 2016 ballot.

In 2015, the Plainfield Public Library District’s population of 75,337 residents checked out 638,470 items, 50,716 attended a Library program, asked 56,068 reference questions and logged 33,405 sessions on Library computers, over 23,940 hours of computing time. Over 4,100 residents participated in the all ages Summer Reading Program. The average Plainfield library district resident checked out 8 items, attended a Library program, asked a reference question and paid only $44.93 for these services, worth an average value of more than $256.