Your browser (Internet Explorer 7 or lower) is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites. Learn how to update your browser.

X

Navigate / search

You are here

Celebrating 140 Years!

November 21, 2014 - From the President of The Urbana Free Library Foundation

As we celebrate our Library’s 140th anniversary, it is with great pride that we honor the past and look forward to the future in helping to supplement the mission of The Urbana Free Library. 

Established in 1997 as a fiscal guiding light in support of the Library, The Urbana Free Library Foundation looks with pride to a few of the significant contributions that we have made over the years.  These include the extremely large role the Foundation had in helping secure funds for the Library expansion in 2005, to projects such as our monthly music programs, the purchase of a piano, and our art enhancement program for the Library. You can see how vibrant our role has been, and the impact that the Foundation has had in helping supplement and support projects over and above the normal budgetary operations of the Library.

Because of the high level of support that we have seen for the Library from the Urbana community in providing outstanding facilities and excellent patron services, we continually look to keep our Foundation Board a reflection of the citizens of Urbana.  Please let us know if you have an interest in participating with us as a Board member.  As we have in the past, we look forward with optimism and strength in our support for The Urbana Free Library.

Larry Jobe, President, The Urbana Free Library Foundation

 

November 17, 2014 - We're celebrating The Urbana Free Library's 140th Birthday! If you look back through the pages of the library's history, it might be interesting to know that children have always been an important part of the library’s story.

 

 

October 23, 2014 -  Were Children Always a Part of The Urbana Free Library?

Looking back over the past 140 years of The Urbana Free Library, it might be interesting to know that children have always been an important part of the library’s story.

In the library's early years, reading was the focus of library services to children.  We suspect the stacks were closed for browsing, but we know from the first by-laws that “minors” could get a library card with the signature of a freeholder, then later with the signature of a freeholder or parent. The act of children getting library cards was even noteworthy, as documented in April 1938—"67 Children Get Library Cards."

We also know that at the end of the library’s first year, the library had amassed 105 “juveniles” or children’s books.  That number continued to grow in the decades following the library’s opening, and has increased to 67,999 books as of July 2014.  According to a September 1878 record, juvenile books accounted for 29.3% of the library’s circulation.  It is impressive to note that that percentage continues to today, as children’s materials account for 31% of the library’s circulation.

Berniece Davis Fiske was hired in 1927 as a children’s librarian, which began her 45-year career at the library.  Early photographs indicate children’s story times were held in the historic Busey-Mills reading room.  Reading Clubs made the newspaper, with headlines reporting the number of children signing-up for summer reading throughout the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s, and the number who finished Ms. Fiske’s special program.  From a 1930s photograph in Leal Park, we also know that Ms. Fiske collaborated with outside organizations like the Urbana Park District to present story time.  By 1959, the children's department had outgrown their location on the first floor and was moved to the ground floor of the library.  City council members were invited by library director Eva Thayer Shively to visit the new children’s room, which included space for books, programs, and plays.  There was even a separate entrance for children directly off of Elm Street.   The auditorium served the children of Urbana until 1974, when the first major expansion increased the size of the children’s department. 

By the early 1990s, in addition to programs for children in elementary school, the library began programs for the youngest of library patrons--birth to age two.  Once per month, babies and their caregivers would come to hear rhymes and stories, do fingerplays, and sing songs.  Today, the children’s department offers 14 Babies' Lap Time programs each month that have a goal of building early language and literacy skills.

Increased use and demand for a wider variety of materials prompted a new vision for the department.  The 2005 expansion created the Children's Services space you visit today.  Large enough to simultaneously accommodate groups of different ages and stages, children and their teachers and families are offered over 30 programs per month, from early childhood programs (Babies’ Lap Time, Toddler Time, Preschool Storytime), to programs for children in elementary school, where kids can create and learn (Art Lessons, Chess Club, Write On!).

Children have been an important part of the library’s story since it began in 1874.  Materials, space, programs, and outreach have been crafted over the years to meet the changing needs of children and their caregivers.  We continue in that tradition to grow and change, whether offering self-check-out, circulating nature exploration kits, pulling books for teachers, offering online language learning (Muzzy), or collaborating with the community for events like Read Across America and the Youth Literature Festival.  Growing young readers, sparking a child’s imagination, developing resources and programming for children, and creating community relationships to support children are an important part of our story that will guide us well into the twenty-first century.

Elaine Bearden ~ Children's Services Librarian

September 15, 2014 - Teen Services @ The Urbana Free Library

In honor of the library’s 140th Birthday Celebration, October will spotlight Teen Services @ The Urbana Free Library.  What does Teen Services involve? Good question!  Teen Services encompasses all services, programs, and outreach offered by the library geared for those in grades 6 through 12.  This includes…

  • Purchasing new books for the Young Adult and Manga collections
  • Writing blog posts about fun books, music, and programs the teens might enjoy
  • Creating handouts and booklists that interest teens
  • Promoting the Young Adult book collection through media outlets
  • Maintaining the teen section of the library’s website, including the great homework help links and college planning tools
  • Creating partnerships with other agencies focused on youth advocacy, including the Champaign-Urbana Community Fab Lab; Makerspace Urbana; the Graduate School of Library and Information Science (GSLIS) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; the SPLASH program at the Urbana Middle School, and others
  • Interacting with teens at the Urbana Middle School through book groups, writing workshops, and more
  • Offering tours of the library for local school groups
  • Supervising GSLIS practicum students focused on Teen Services
  • Applying for grants to increase programming possibilities
  • Interviewing and supervising new volunteers who help with teen programming
  • Presenting at local, state, and national conferences, and other local group meetings to spread the word about current teen programming
  • Leading the Teen Summer Reading Program
  • Planning and implementing specialty programming, such as the great Paper Airplane Competition of 2013; Bubble Painting; STAR WARS Snowflakes; the Superheroes and Villains Party; the annual Manga Mini-Convention; and the annual Zombie Prom
  • Participating in nationwide library events, such as March’s Teen Tech Week; May’s Get Caught Reading Month; October’s Teen Read Week; and the summer’s National Teen Lock-In, an after-hours program connecting more than 70 libraries across the country with virtual author events, Minecraft, and Minute-to-Win-It games
  • AND, running the popular Teen Open Lab (TOL) most Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. The TOL gives teens a space of their own while introducing them to opportunities such as sewing, 3D printing, audio recording, drawing with graphics tablets, and more!

Teens, come get involved during the month of October—we have plenty of fun waiting for you!

Amber Cox, Adult & Teen Services Librarian

Speaking of Teen Services…October Programs!

Urbana Otaku Manga Club • Friday, October 3 • 4:00 - 5:00 p.m.
All things manga. Snacks and prize drawings every month!

Teen Open Lab • Most Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday Afternoons • 3:00 - 5:30 p.m.
Film-making, 3D printing, music, reading, drawing, crafting, gaming, and just hanging out. 

Exquisite and Sonorous Corpses • Wednesday, October 15 • 3:00 - 4:00 p.m.
A performance by Noble Fowl Trio.

Zombie Costume Workshop • Tuesday & Wednesday, October 22 & 23 • 3:00 - 5:30 p.m. 
Let Makerspace Urbana and CU Community Fab Lab teach you how to use a little sewing know-how and other odds and ends to create your undead apparel for the Zombie Prom.

Zombie Prom: Nightmare on Elm Street • Friday, October 24 • 6:30 - 9:00 p.m.
Punch, ghoulish snacks, a costume contest, and more at this special after-hours event

All programs will take place in the Lewis Auditorium.  For more information, please call 217-367-4405.


 

 

August 18, 2014 - Fast Facts About Circulation Services

During the month of September, the 140th Birthday Celebration will focus on Circulation Services.   Everyone knows the circulation staff, but here’s a few fast facts you may not know:  

  • Thirteen of the circulation staff have worked for the library for an average of 8.15 years each—a grand total of 106 years.  Our tenure runs from 2 to 31 years. 
  • Our shelvers average 3.17 years of employment at the library, with nearly 51 years of experience. 
  • We keep library materials moving! We pull requests and place them on the hold shelf quickly.  And items go back to the shelves soon after being checked in.
  • We do our best to answer your questions when you call, or we will find another staff member who can. No recorded voices or numerical menus for you to plow through.
  • Circulation staff learn a gazillion (we counted!) of the library’s policies and procedures to be able to serve you well at the circulation desk.
  • It’s the shelvers (in collaboration with the custodians) who help set up the popular Friends of The Urbana Free Library book sales – getting hundreds of boxes of books ready for you to explore.
  • Your eyes are not playing tricks—some circulation staff members have more than one job at the library.  Some work at the Information Desk, at the library cafe, and in Acquisitions Services. 
  • It’s the circulation staff who manage the library’s popular Home and Courtesy Delivery programs, and some of us volunteer to select items too. Just ask one of us if you know someone who needs this valuable service.
  • You will find us at the Market at the Square the third Saturday of each month. We’ll have balloons for kids of all ages during August and September, so come see us.
  • We love The Urbana Free Library!  We know the collection and community well and are always ready to help you.  We’re proud to serve Urbana and look forward to the next 140 years!

Dawn Cassady, Director of Circulation Services

July 18, 2014

As we celebrate The Urbana Free Library’s 140th Birthday, we will feature each month a library department or support organization that has helped make the library into the community service it is today. What better place to start the story of the library than with the keeper of stories – the Champaign County Historical Archives

Nelle Carpenter, cataloger for the library and noted local history and Lincoln enthusiast, began collecting Champaign County historical materials at The Urbana Free Library in 1956, storing those materials in a four-drawer filing cabinet.  In 1959, the Historical Room was established in a newly vacated basement room in the library.  Housed there were Nelle’s collected items, the Library’s collection of Illinois historical works, and the Judge Joseph Oscar Cunningham book collection, which had been contributed to the Library upon his death in 1917.  From this modest beginning the Historical Room’s collection, now known as The Champaign County Historical Archives, has grown throughout the years to include 3,500 linear feet of personal collections, business records, photographs, audiovisual materials, ephemera, and Champaign County records.

Located on the second floor of the library, The Champaign County Historical Archives  maintains a research-level collection on the history and genealogy of Champaign County.  In 1987 it was designated the official repository for non-current Champaign County records.  Although it focuses on Champaign County, the Archives holds extensive collections dealing with the rest of Illinois and other states that document the migration routes of Champaign County communities. Whether you have Champaign County ancestors (or no connections to the county at all), or are interested in local history, there is a wealth of materials available for your research. 

In honor of the 140th birthday of The Urbana Free Library, the staff of The Champaign County Historical Archives has created an exhibit from materials in our collection celebrating the library’s history. The exhibit, located on the first floor near the Cafe and Friends Bookshop, will be on display for the month of August.  If you cannot make it in person be sure to visit our digital exhibit.  And remember you can always browse The Champaign County Historical Archives collections via our catalog Local History Online, keep up with us on our blog, or stop by the second floor and visit us in person.  We would love to see you.

Sherrie Bowser, Archives Librarian


 


July 8, 2014

After much brainstorming, the library now has a plan of action for the year-long 140th Birthday Celebration.  Each month through May 2015, we will feature a library department or support organization, which over the years has helped to shape The Urbana Free Library into the much-admired community service it is today.  We’ll share history, special displays, library trivia, and tell you about “surprise” services you may not have known existed.  We also want to hear from you—so watch for informal surveys and trivia quizzes! 

Here’s the monthly theme of events for the140th Birthday Celebration: 

  • August – The Champaign County Historical Archives
  • September – Circulation Services
  • October – Teen Services
  • November – Children’s Services
  • December  – The Urbana Free Library Foundation
  • January – Adult Services
  • February  – Our Community
  • March – The Friends of The Urbana Free Library
  • April – Our Volunteers
  • May – Behind the Scenes Staff (Administration, Acquisitions Services, Maintenance, Graphics Services, and Baristas.

Kathy Wicks, Associate Director


 

 

July 1, 2014

In its early days, the library resided in various spaces in municipal and commercial buildings in downtown Urbana.  When philanthropist Andrew Carnegie turned down the Board’s proposal to endow the construction of a permanent home for the library, hope was lost until 1917, when Mrs. Mary E. Busey offered $35,000 to erect a library building as a memorial to her husband, General Samuel T. Busey.  The building was dedicated on July 18, 1918.  

Fast facts about the original library building:

  • The architect, Joseph W. Royer, also designed several well-known Urbana buildings, such as the Champaign County Courthouse and the Urbana Lincoln Hotel.  
  • A.W. Stoolman was the contractor for the library building.  He also built several campus buildings, and built and owned the Virginia Theatre in Champaign.  
  • At the roofline on the north side of the building, a verse by Ben Jonson is carved that is only visible in winter months.  The verse reads, “When I would know my thought looks, upon thy well made choice of friends and books.  Then do I love thee and behold thy ends, in making thy friends books and thy books friends.”  
  • The building is constructed of Indiana cut limestone in the classic revival architectural style.  

The 2005 library addition included reconstruction of the outside walls from the 1975 addition.  These walls also were made of cut limestone to integrate the two expansions into the style of the original 1918 building.  The historic structure, with its Race Street entrance, remains the library’s visual identity and connection with the downtown community.

Kathy Wicks, Associate Director


June 15, 2014

Once upon a time in 1872 in the thriving City of Urbana, 52 men active in the interest of their community, formed the Young Men’s Library Association.  With the prospect of ultimate success and the encouragement of the County Gazette, the first meeting of the library leaders was
held in January 1873.   With committees in place and enthusiasm in abundance, the Association opened a downtown reading room, offering books and periodicals for browsing to the public for a small fee.  In the spring of 1874, a movement to have the City government take over the library was launched, and on July 2 of that year, The Urbana Free Library was created by the City Council.  And we have lived well-loved by the community ever after.

In 2014, The Urbana Free Library is celebrating its 140th birthday. To commemorate this landmark moment in history, the library is inviting the community on June 22, to a very special UFLive! Birthday Bash with Don’t Ask, an event that will kick-off a year-long celebration of events that will tell the story of the library and its service to the Urbana community.  We’ll have music and birthday cake, and The Urbana Free Library Cafe and Friends Book Shop will offer a special Cherry Alley Iced Tea for sale.   

The library’s rich history is the key to its bright future; the library was founded through the vision and support of the community, and we continue to be supported to this day. We thank you and invite you to come celebrate!

Historical content from The Urbana Free Library: It’s Early Years (available through the Champaign County Historical Archives)

Kathy Wicks, Associate Director

Search CU Catalog