History & building

Since the late 1920s, we have been a fixture in the community. Follow our story from then to now. 

You can download a map of the building to help you find your way around, or take a closer look at our Kids Room

Our Story

We’ve been an important part of the Skokie community for more than 90 years. We’re proud of our accomplishments, including receiving a five-star ranking from Library Journal, being the first public library in Illinois to be awarded the National Medal for Museum and Library Service in 2008, and being depicted in a cachet by Skokie artist Doris Gold for the “Libraries of America” commemorative postage stamp issued by the U.S. Postal Service in 1982.

The east exterior of the Skokie Public Library on a sunny day, showing a large red sculpture outside, trees, and a row of second floor windows.

The east side of the library building in 2020.

The left image shows former Skokie Public Library director Carolyn Anthony and community member representative Aleks Krapivkin holding up the framed National Medal for Museum and Library Service, which the Skokie Public Library received in 2008. The right image shows a portion of the "Libraries of America" stamp, issued in 1982, which is hand drawn in reds, yellows, blues, and greens, and features a large letter "L", a person reading to children, and the exterior of the Skokie Public Library.

Left: In 2008, Skokie Public Library became the first public library in Illinois to be awarded the National Medal for Museum and Library Service. Right: The library is depicted in a cachet by Skokie artist Doris Gold for the “Libraries of America” stamp issued by the United States Postal Service on July 13, 1982.

Our Building

Starting in 1930, the library occupied parts of various buildings along Oakton Street. The current location opened in 1960 and has won awards from the American Institute of Architects and the American Library Association. A building expansion in 1971 more than doubled the size of the building, and another major renovation in 2003 added a third floor and an entrance on the west side. We completed an interior renovation in 2021 to modernize the building and enhance the spaces and services that the community loves most. Learn more about the library's permanent art collection.

The left image is an old black and white photograph showing the exterior of a two-story building, the Oakton Drugs building, where the Skokie Public Library first opened its doors in 1930. There are two old cars parked out front of the building. The right image is an old black and white photograph that shows several adults and children walking and holding hands down a sidewalk along the exterior wall of the Skokie Public Library, which is written on the brick.

Left: When the library opened its doors for the first time in 1930, it was located on the second floor of the Oakton Drugs building, which housed the National Bank of Niles Center. In its place today is The Highpoint at 8000 North development. Right: The exterior of the library in 1963. The covered entrance is in the same spot as today’s youth courtyard.

The current Reading Room in the Skokie Public Library, showing long wooden tables with wooden chairs, bookshelf-lined walls, and low orange chairs along a floor to ceiling wall of glass that looks out on the second floor of the library.

The Skokie Public Library underwent a full renovation of its public spaces in 2020-2021.

Our Services

We are committed to meeting the changing needs of a dynamic and diverse community. It started in 1930, when the Cosmos Club opened a library for 10 hours a week with a collection of 1,000 books. Skokie voters approved a tax-supported library in 1941, which gave us the reliable funding we needed to grow. Our first bookmobile stopped at eight locations in Skokie starting in 1957. The first computerized card catalog replaced the traditional card catalog in 1986, and we launched our first website in 1995. We hit a new milestone in 2010, when our annual circulation of items reached 2 million for the first time. And in early 2020, we eliminated all overdue fines so that everyone can enjoy free and easy access to the materials they want.

A scan of a newspaper clipping from 1930 showing a photograph of a line of children returning books to a seated librarian in the newly founded Niles Center Free Public Library.

A clipping from page 5 of the Greater Niles Center News, August 20, 1930 showing children returning books to the newly founded Niles Center Free Public Library.

The left image is a black and white photograph from the 1980s showing five standing people and one seated person gathered around a small computer, the first online catalog. Former library director Carolyn Anthony is pictured. They are all smiling at the camera. The right image is an old black and white photograph of a very early model of the Skokie Public Library bookmobile, which two people are pictured entering.

Left: In 1986, the card catalog is replaced by GEAC, an online catalog. Compact discs are added to the collection. Right: The bookmobile in 1968. When the bookmobile first goes into service in 1957, it serves eight locations in Skokie.

More history

Three print sources related to the library’s history can be found in the catalog.