When in 1932 the family of the late Thomas Ford, a Western Springs housing contractor, used his life insurance money to give the a permanent home to the previously peripatetic , the building’s circulation was about 5000 books.
Today, between all library materials, that same collection has grown to over 264,000—the result of 80 years of devotion to reading, education and community spirit.
The library marked its 80th anniversary Sunday with a cake and a musical performance in the downstairs by colorful Chicago a cappella quartet Ac-Rock. Community members joined library staff and volunteers in celebrating the library’s enduring importance to the Village of Western Springs.
Library Director Anne Kozak offered a vision of what a library like Thomas Ford should strive to be in the information and Internet age.
“I think public libraries in general are really becoming community centers. It’s a place where people not only exchange ideas… but they also exchange hellos, greet each other,” Kozak said.
“That’s kind of what we see as our mission, our role in the community: to be that place where people can see each other, exchange ideas, learn about things, have a cup of coffee. They call it the third place—there’s work, and there’s home, and there’s a third place where people like to come and hang out. And we’d really like to be the third place.”
Kozak and Library Board Treasurer John Ericsson also both emphatically requested that Village residents fill out and return a recent survey on what they’d like to see from the library, also available on the library’s website.
“We all have our own vision of how a library should be, and you don’t want to be too insular as a Board, so we really need the input from the community to find out what your needs are,” Ericsson said.
“This is a great anniversary… We have a wonderful Village, a wonderful town, a great library, a great staff. I really appreciate everybody coming out.”