During the early years of the village, library services had to be obtained through the schools in the area or through the libraries of other villages. The needs of the early North Riverside children seeking library books, however, were met in an improvised library started in Mrs. Byrd March’s home.
In 1949, several local civic groups started to push for a new library for the Village, and the Board of Trustees placed the issue before the voters. Voters defeated the issue 733 to 354. In 1953, the same issue of establishing a library tax was placed before the voters. This referendum was also defeated, 879 to 282.
In November 1958, the North Riverside Women’s Club launched the first Village library. It was located in the basement of the firehouse on Des Plaines and 25th Street. For a while that facility met the needs of the Village, but the collection grew, and in 1968 the Village leased space in a storefront at 26th Street and Hainsworth, where the Library remained until 1974. When the Fire Department moved into their new building, the North Riverside Women’s Club moved the Library to the rear of the then vacant firehouse. The North Riverside Women’s Club volunteers provided all library services up to this time.
In November 1979, plans were finalized to transfer the library operation and collections to the Village. The old firehouse was renovated by the Village to house the new Library, which was opened to the public on March 21, 1981. Furnishings were provided as a result of an earlier memorial gift from the Bursik family, together with additional funds raised by the North Riverside Women’s Club.
In April 1983, the North Riverside Public Library District was established by a referendum vote of 1,136 to 979. An informal agreement between the Village and the Library District allowed the Library to lease the renovated premises it had occupied since 1981 for $1 per month. Later in 1983, the Library District joined the Suburban Library System and began issuing Suburban Library System cards which gave Village residents access to all the libraries in the Suburban Library System.
In December 1985, the Library District purchased these renovated premises from the Village for $10. In 1987, the Library District purchased an adjacent building from the Village for $10 that became known as the Library Annex. In this small structure, children and adult programming took place. Library Board meetings were held there as well.
After several years of discussion, the Library Board asked voters in 1995 to approve a referendum question on the issuance of $2,950,000 in general obligation bonds to construct a new library building. Voters approved the question by a vote of 718 to 645 on November 7 of that year.
A site for the building across the street from the Village Commons was secured following negotiations involving the Village of North Riverside, the Riverside Golf Club and the Cook County Forest Preserve District. Ground was broken in April 1998 and the 22,000 square foot building opened in June 1999.
In 2018 the Teen Advisory Board asked that the Library Board of Trustees make it a priority to create an enclosed teen space. Later that year with the help of an architect, the Library added the glass wall which divides the teen spot from the rest of the library and gives teens a place to watch movies, play games, study and more. In addition, the library added its first makerspace called the Build Guild in what was once the computer room. Later this year, the Library added Studio 2400 in a converted office in the adult stacks.
In 2020, following the death of long-time library trustee, Friends group member and advocate Kay Subaitis, the library converted the donated book sorting area to create a perpetual book sale room called Kay’s Book Sale. The renovation of the room and much of the furniture was paid for by the Friends Group and donations. The bookcases in the room are from the old library (prior to moving to this building).
In 2022, in response to the ongoing pandemic and goals of the strategic plan, NRPL added the Book lockers next to the North entrance of the library allowing for 24/7 contactless access to reserved materials and programming supplies. Thanks to a generous donation from the North Riverside Foundation and Friends Group, the library renovated “The Annex” which serves as a 3rd makerspace and small meeting room.
The Library District’s boundaries are the same as the Village of North Riverside. The Library district is a separate governing body and is not associated with the Village of North Riverside’s governing body.
The North Riverside Historical Society Members are working hard with the Library to move their materials to storage in the Library’s meeting room. We encourage you to look at the displays of local history in the main floor meeting room and also at the Village Hall.