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Library History

The Northbrook Public Library currently serves about 35,000 residents. In 1919, when the first reading room was established above a store across from Village Green, there were about 500 people living in the area, which was originally incorporated as Shermervile. Its growth, both in size and services is a testament to the community's commitment to having a world-class library in Northbrook.  

Library Leadership

Freda Thorson, Head Librarian (1952-1965)
Dorothy Curley, Chief Librarian (1965-1968) 
Richard "Dick" E. CombsDirector (1968-1975)
Frances "Deedee" J. Bradbury, Director (1975-1985)
Chad RaymondExecutive Director (1985-2015) Listen to Chad's Northbrook Voices interview
Kate Hall, Executive Director (2015-present)


  • The first reading room was established in 1919, located in a room above a store on Shermer, across Village Green.


  • Bertram Pollak, president of the Northbrook Civic Association (later the Northbrook Civic Foundation), led a push for creating a public library
  • The Northbrook Civic Association joined the League of Women Voters, the Service Club, the Northbrook Chamber of Commerce, the public school PTA, and the St. Norbert's PTA to launch a successful library referendum, which passed with a margin of six votes on May 20, 1951
  • Boy and Girl Scouts helped index books loaned by the Illinois State Library for the new Northbrook Library and place them on the shelves in 1952
  • The library opened its doors on June 28, 1952, in the old Village Hall (now the Northbrook Civic Foundation building)
  • In fall 1953, the Civic Association raised the funds to build a library, located on the northeast corner of Shermer and Church streets. 
  • The library building was dedicated on March 21, 1954


Photo of the building in 1969

  • The library becomes a charter member of the North Suburban Library System (NSLS) which provides a network for interlibrary loans and reciprocal borrowing
  • The Village donated a portion of the skating rink north of the Village Hall at the corner of Cedar and Cherry as the location for a new building
  • The new building opened on May 25, 1969, designed by the firm Hammond & Roche


Photo of the Circulation Desk in 1976


Online catalog access

  • Interlibrary loan and reciprocal borrowing is computerized, which allows patrons to locate and borrow materials from all 43 libraries in the North Suburban Library System in 1981
  • VHS tapes are available to check out for both VHS and Beta home systems in 1981
  • Online computer searching is introduced in 1981
  • Reference Department receives a computer terminal, funded by a state grant, in 1982
  • Four online catalog terminals, some operated by touch and some by keyboard, are available to patrons in 1984
  • Two Apple IIe microcomputers with Epson printers are available for patron use in 1985
  • Compact Discs (CDs) are available to check out in 1985
  • First computer classes are offered on using our online catalog to search for materials ("How to use the OPAC") in 1986


Photo of the construction to add the third floor

  • Adult Summer reading club begins ​in 1991
  • Former board member Doug Downey writes a narrative history of the library detailing how it has evolved over the years in 1992 (updated in 2002)
  • Korean Language collection begins, courtesy of Korean Canaan Presbyterian Church in 1993
  • 1-hour appointments are available for patrons to access the Internet using the Netscape browser in 1995
  • Adult Winter Reading Club begins in 1997
  • The library closes on June 14, 1998, and temporarily relocates to the Jewel (now Sunset Foods) at 1133 Church St. for the 12-15 month building expansion
  • On July 26, 1999, the permanent building at 1220 Cherry Lane reopened its doors to the public 
  • The library receives the American Library Association’s John Cotton Dana Award for outstanding library public relations of its “Jewel of a Library” campaign, informing the public about its temporary relocation to the Jewel location in 1999


  • Internet Basics classes begin in 2000
  • A DVD collection is added in 2000
  • The Northbrook Public Library Foundation is formed in 2002
  • The library website ( is launched in 2003


Photo of the Collaboratory

  • The library receives a 5-Star rating from Library Journal in 2012, 2013, 2019
  • 3D printer service is offered in 2013
  • The building undergoes a major renovation including improvements to the Auditorium and meeting rooms, the addition of a Cafe space and Friends bookshop, and ADA, HVAC, and tech improvements in 2014, completed in 2015
  • The library hosted TEDxNorthbrookLIbrary in 2015, 2016, and 2018
  • The building participates in Light It Up Blue to commemorate Autism Awareness Month and wins the Illinois Library Association Demco Library Innovative Award in 2015
  • The library’s makerspace, the Collaboratory, opens with the Peltz Digitization Room and the Peltz Digital Media Lab, thanks to a generous bequest from resident Howard Peltz in 2018
  • The first Northbrook Repairs invites people to work with skilled volunteers to help repair broken household items in 2019
  • The first One Book, One Northbrook was held in July 2019, featuring programs that explored the book Born a Crime by Trevor Noah.

Photo of the exterior of Northbrook Public Library


  • In March 2020, the library closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and reopens the building to patrons from July through November with limited services
  • Virtual programs and Curbside Service provides at-home services to patrons while the building is closed due to the pandemic
  • The library hosts its third TEDxNorthbrookLIbrary, which was live-streamed from the Auditorium in 2020 due to social distancing restrictions
  • The library receives a 5-Star rating from Library Journal and is ranked #1 in the state and #2 in the nation in its budget category in 2020
  • Completed in June 2021, a lobby renovation provided a more welcoming space, including a new mural painted by a Northbrook artist, several new collections, new self-checkout machines, and an automated materials handler that utilizes RFID technology to check in and sort books. Watch a timelapse showing the installation of the automated materials handler
  • In July 2020, we debuted 13 new 2nd floor study rooms, which increases the total number of reservable study rooms to 17.
  • Executive Director, Kate Hall is named 2021 Illinois Librarian of the Year by the Illinois Library Association in July 2021.
  • The library received a 5 Star Rating in 2021 and 2022.
  • The Village Board approves a resolution to declare the Villlage of Northbrook as a Book Sanctuary Community in September 2023.