History of the Library

Adams Memorial Library - 1891

The first library building was dedicated by Wheaton resident John Quincy Adams to the memory of his wife in 1891. Mr. Adams, a descendant of the Adams line which produced two presidents, was born in Hopkinton, Massachusetts, in 1824 and came to Chicago in 1851. He was a successful grain merchant and dealt extensively in real estate. The library was designed by prominent Chicago architect, Charles Sumner Frost, and had beautiful architectural details, carved oak woodwork and stairs and art glass. It was a magnificent free library for the citizens of Wheaton who numbered no more than 3,000 at the time. The first floor of the building had library reading rooms, while the second floor served as a meeting hall and had a stage for local drama and a piano for concerts. Mr. Adams also settled an endowment fund on the library. His daughter, Katharine Adams Wells, became Wheaton's first librarian and introduced the Dewey Decimal System.

Wheaton Public Library Begins - 1923

The library continued to operate for 32 years on money received from the Adams Memorial Trust. However, as Wheaton grew the need for library materials and services increased, and, along with that, the need for additional funding. In 1923, the City of Wheaton voted to levy a tax to operate the library, and the Mayor appointed a Board of Library Directors.

A New Beginning - 1965

By 1959, Wheaton had become a cosmopolitan suburban community of 24,312. The Library Board recognized the need for a larger, more modern building. Construction began in 1964 on another site, just a block east of the Adams Memorial Library. The library moved into its new facility in the fall of 1965. The Adams Memorial Library building became the home of the DuPage County Historical Museum.

Library Addition Completed - 1979

Although a renovation program in 1973 solved some space problems by moving the Children's Department to the recently finished lower level, suburban growth, which increased circulation to 438,000, and a book collection of 147,000 volumes necessitated additional space. By 1976, plans for expansion to the south were on the drawing board. Groundbreaking for a 40,000 sq. ft. addition took place in March of 1977 and was completed in 1979. The original building was also remodeled at that time. After the addition was finished, land acquisition and parking lot construction followed. Circulation rose immediately to 566,000. The 1980's saw ever-increasing library use, and a multiplicity of formats offered to cardholders.

Library Automation - the '90s

The 1990s brought library automation. A computerized circulation and cataloging system was installed in 1993. Reference sources on CD-ROM were added in 1994 and the library's first Website was created in 1995. Technology classes were offered to the public to make them more comfortable using the computers. Building changes were underway too. Besides the infrastructure needed for the new technology, the parking lot was expanded, the front entrance was reconfigured and a new sculpture court was added. Audio books on CD and DVDs were added to the collection. Circulation climbed to 939,787. No wonder Wheaton Public Library was named a "Top Ten" library in 1999 according to Hennen's American Public Library Ratings Index.

Library Expansion - 2007

In fiscal year 2001 the library reached a milestone - over one million items had been checked out! 1,037,767 to be exact. The library needed more space for materials, computers and people. A library addition and renovation project was planned with the groundbreaking held in December 2004. A 3-story addition was added in February 2006 followed by renovation of the old library which was completed in February 2007. Cross Street was closed on the west side of the building where a second entrance was added with easy access to Adams Park. The Quiet Reading Room on the second floor has lovely views of the park and is a cozy place in the winter when the fireplace is burning. The new Wheaton Public Library is 124,000 square feet, has 200 computers, wireless access to the Internet and ample room for tables and comfortable chairs. A Friends of the Library group formed in 2003 to raise money to support the library. They donated the fireplace in the Quiet Room and the mural in the Children's Story House. Wheaton Public Library continues to be among the "Top Ten" libraries of its size in the country.