Elkhart Public Library District
In 1888, Mrs. Lemira Gillett promised to provide a library for the citizens of Elkhart if they would vote the town dry for three years. This promise was made in an effort to keep alcohol away from her son John P. Gillett. The town was voted dry and a Library Association was formed in 1891. The association elected officers: John L. Brady, Predisent; Mrs. F. W. Cottle, Vice President; W. L. Newton, Secretary; and Lemira Gillett, Miss Celia L. Stratton, Dr. J. B. Chittub and Mrs. N. L. Martin were directors. Mrs. Gillett rented a room in the Gillett Building and provided shelves and furnishings. Lemira gave $1,000, the interest to be used for purchasing books and her daughter, Charlotte Barnes, gave the same to with the interest to be used for the upkeep of the library room. On March 5, 1893, the library was opened to the public with H. E. Newton as the librarian and 214 volumes on the shelves.
In September of 1901, John P. Gillett ultimately succumbed to alcoholism and Lemira died two weeks later. A two mills tax was passed by the town to support the library in 1902 and the library legally became the property of the town. In response to the taxes being levied, daughter, Miss Jessie D. Gillett promised to build a library building for the town to honor her mother. The village elected its first board of library trustees at the election in 1904. The trustees elected consisted of: Dr. G.G. Taylor, Dr. Joseph T. Woodward, Patrick Bohan, Charles S. Stahl, Thomas J. Henneberry and William G. Schafer. A contractor was hired and the library building was completed and dedicated in May of 1904. It held 829 volumes. In 1920, the library was used as a meeting place for the planning of a high school in Elkhart. It also served as a class room until the high school was completed. The library underwent a thorough cleaning and improvements in the seventies and air conditioning and restrooms were installed in the eighties.
Today the library is a district library, covering Elkhart and Hurlbut Townships and is known as the Elkhart Public Library District. The library has over 12,000 books and materials. There is a wide selection of videos, DVD’s, books on tape, and magazines. The library owns four computers for use by staff and patrons to circulate materials, to produce billing and inventory reports, for word processing, and for internet access.WIFI internet is now available. The library also has a copier, scanner, FAX, and printers. The library belongs to the Rolling Prairie Library System from which patrons have access to millions of materials all over the state and worldwide. Elkhart Public Library District is considered an Illinois Centennial Business by the Illinois State Historical Society.
The library offers story-time for children 2-5 years old and sponsors a six week Summer Reading Program with the financial help of local businesses. The library is the meeting place for several local organizations and provides special educational programs throughout the year. The library employs one full time and two part time employees and is open forty eight hours a week. The current library director is Vanda Liesman. Former Library Directors have been: H. E. Newton, Mrs. Follis, Ethel Smith, Opal Buttell, Mary Pankey, Veronica Lefferts, Donna Cunningham and Teri McGee.
During the celebration of the library building’s 100th anniversary in 2004, the Library Board of Trustees and community volunteers began a campaign to raise money for the expansion of the existing building. It is the hopes of the Library Board of Trustees that the library will soon be able to provide an ADA accessible facility with state of the art technology and research materials, room for a children’s and meeting area, and adequate shelving. Current members of the board of trustees are: Angela Olson President;Diana Newberry Vice President; Kelly Elias Secretary; Joye Anderson Treasurer; Chris Clementz, and Theresa Moore.