The Matteson Public Library (MPL) is located at 801 South School Avenue in Matteson, Illinois 60443-1897. Matteson is at the far southern end of Cook County, twenty-six miles south of the Chicago Loop.
Interstate 57 and Lincoln Highway slice through Matteson. It is also served by the Metra Electric line. The main commercial strip is along Lincoln Highway.
German settlers arrived in the 1850s and name their community after Joel Matteson (1808-1873), Governor of Illinois (1853-1857). When the town incorporated in 1859, it had 500 residents. By 1970, the village’s population had reached 4,741. A decade later, the population more than doubled, to 10,223. In 2000 there were 12,928 residents.
As recounted by Ian McGiver in The Encyclopia of Chicago, Matteson had only one Black resident in 1970. By 2000, the population was 62.6% Black, 32.7% White, 3.4% Hispanic, and 1.6% Asian, with 1.8% of the population belonging to two or more races, and sixteen residents who were either American Indians or Inuit (Eskimos).
Residents of unincorporated areas of Matteson served by the school district can obtain librarycards by purchasing them. Since residents of incorporated Matteson pay property taxes (or their landlords pay property taxes) to support the MPL, they do not have to purchase their librarycards.
The early Matteson Village Librarians and more recent Administrative Librarians are counted as Matteson Public Library Directors. The first Village Librarian was Mrs. Gilbert Davies, who served from 1961 to 1963. She was succeeded by Mrs. Thomas Moore, who served as Village Librarian from 1963 to 1967. Most of the Library Directors who succeeded them held the post for much longer periods of time than they did.
The third Village Librarian, Mrs. Ina Curry, held the post from 1967 to 1978. Her successor, Maurine Hoffman, held the post from 1978 to 1986.
Although he was never officially the Library Director, Assistant Director Bill Madsen served as Interim Library Director four times. The first time was in 1986-87. The fifth Library Director was Joyce Willis, who held the post for ten years from 1987 to 1997. Madsen served as Interim Library Director again in 1997-98.
Chris Kruchman served as Library Director from 1998 to 1999. Madsen served as Interim Library Director for a thir time in 1999. Dean Bryan served as the seventh Library Director from December of 1999 to February of 20001. Madsen served as Interim Library Director for a fourth time in 2001. The eighth and present Library Director, Kathy Berggren, assumed office in 2001.
The MPL was located at 21504 Main Street from 1961 to 1966, at the corner of 216th Street and Locust from 1966 to 1975, at 4240 Lincoln Highway from 1975 to 1979, at 813 School Avenue from 1979 to 1993, and at its current location at 801 Scool Avenue since 1993.
The MPL opened to the public on August 7, 1961 at 21504 Main Street. It was open about fourteen hours per week.
The MPL was ushered into existence by the local Lions’ Club. They sponsored two benefit performances of You Can’t Take It with You, which netted about $1, 000 for the fledgling library.
The relationship of the MPL to the local Lions’ Club is similar to that of several other public libraries previously profiled in which social clubs either founded them or donated the first books in their collections or funded the acquisition of the first books in their collections. In Naperville, Illinois, for instance, The Women’s Clubdonated the first 500 books in the Nichols Library. The Indian Prairie Public Library District, headquartered in Darien, Illinois, was founded as the Darien Library was founded in 1978 as a volunteer library operated by the Darien Woman’s Club. The Summit Public Library District was founded as the Summit-Argo Public Library in 1916 through the efforts of the Argo-Summit Women’s Club.The foundation of the Lisle Public Library was the brainchild of the Lisle Woman’s Club, which is similar to the origins of the Riverside Public Library, the Arlington Heights Memorial Library, the Downers Grove Public Library, the Berwyn Public Library, the Algonquin Area Public Library District, the Barrington Area Public Library District, Woodridge Public Library, the Atwood-Hammond Public Library District, the Indian Trails Public Library District, and the La Grange Public Library, and the Glenside Public Library District.
To become family cardholders, it cost $2.00 a year for Matteson, Richton Park and Olympia Fields residents; all others were assessed $4.00 a year. Mrs. Gilbert Davies was the first Village Librarian.
More benefits were held in 1962 and ’63 so the MPL could acquire books, magazines and suchlike. Drury Lane Theatre staged Skylark, starring Jane Russell (1921-2011), with $2.50 of the $4.00 ticket proceeds going to the MPL; Aldous Huxley’s The Gioconda Smile with Linda Darnell (1923-1965); Belvedere; and Come Blow Your Horn which starred comedian Jan Murray (1916-2006). [Huxley adapted his own short story “The Gioconda Smile” as the Universal Studios film A Woman’s Vengeance (1947).] The Lions’ Club devoted their 1962 fund-raising efforts to the MPL and the Rehfeldt-Meyer American Legion Post, contributed $300 to the MPL’s coffers.
After one year, the MPL reported having 3,300 books and 277 family library cards, with 10,500 books circulated. In 1963, Mrs. Thomas Moore replaced Mrs. Davies as Village Librarian.
A referendum passed on April 21, 1964 that enabled the Village of Matteson to collect property taxes to support the Matteson Public Library. In 1966, the MPL moved into the former U.S. Post Office at 216th Street and Locust thanks to help from both Boy and Girl Scouts. The remodeled post office provided the MPL with three times as much space, ably housing its 5,000 volumes.
The new location also provided twice the floor space and allowed for separate adult and juvenile sections. That same year, the Library Board voted to become part of the Suburban Library System (S.L.S.) to accommodate the increasingly diverse needs of a growing community. SLS later became the Metropolitan Library System (M.L.S.). The MLS served academic, public, school, and special libraries. The Illinois Regional Library Systems were founded under the authority of the Illinois Library System Act (1965). Their funding is provided by the Illinois General Assembly through the Illinois State Library (ISL).
In 2011, Jesse White, Illinois Secretary of State and State Librarian, approved the merger of the MLS with four other Illinois Regional Library Systems to form a new super-system that would serve libraries of all types in Northern Illinois other than the Chicago Public Library, much of Central Illinois and part of eastern Iowa. It is called the Reaching Across Illinois Library System (R.A.I.L.S.). The other four systems that merged into RAILS were the DuPage Library System (D.L.S.), which supported 132 libraries in parts of Cook, DuPage, Kane, Kendall, and Will Counties; the North Suburban Library System (N.S.L.S.), which supported libraries in the suburbs and exurbs of northern Cook County, all of Lake County, northeast Kane County, and parts of southeastern McHenry County; the Prairie Area Library System (P.A.L.S.) supported libraries in 27 counties in northern Illinois and eastern Iowa; and the Alliance Library System (A.L.S.), which supported 255 libraries in Central Illinois.
The MPL began to lend films in 1967. Mrs. Ina Curry became the Village Librarian in 1967. She was the first chief librarian to hold the post for more than ten years.
In 1969, the Lions’ Club funded preschooler story hours. The MPL added summer reading programs and a paperback collection. In 1970, an exhibition of ten color photographs taken by astronauts as they first stepped on the moon. A copying machine was added. The MPL acquired a small collection of large-print books thanks to the Irvin Roberts Memorial Fund, established in 1974. Circulation increased to the point that more than 27% of Matteson’s total population patronized the MPL – with 1,360 cardholders circulating 36,504 books.
The MPL moved again on June 16, 1975 to what was then Korvette Shopping Plaza at 4240 Lincoln Highway. With this new location, the MPL gained more space and greater visibility. Programs and services continued to increase. Maurine Hoffmann, joined the MPL staff as Library Director in 1978.
In 1975, there was an exhibition of Barbara Graham’s wildlife drawings, prints and paintings. In the late 1970s, residents browsed through a variety of seed catalogs for their gardens and save money via the very popular coupon exchange. Stitchers benefited from a pattern exchange service added in 1979. The MPL collected eyeglasses in cooperation with the local Lions. The MPL made a one-time St. Valentine’s Day present to library users: No fines.
An atlas stand soon appeared, followed shortly by a pedestal-type globe, plants, and magazine subscriptions. The Lions’ Club contributed a talking book machine and an APH cassette recorder and master lens.
The MPL’s third move took place in 1979, when the MPL and Matteson Community Center both found a new home in the former Oakwood School. The MPL shared this building with the Village of Matteson Parks & Recreation Department as the building was first leased, then owned and operated by the Village of Matteson.
A 1979 survey of Matteson residents about MPL service resulted in longer hours and new materials. The Tri-Village Kiwanis Club donated a brand-new filmstrip projector.
The MPL added a collection of framed art prints to be borrowed. There were special and well-attended programs on solving tax problems, calligraphy, women’s self-defense, and Dungeons & Dragons. Exhibitions in this time period were on such subjects as dolls, war games, shells, M.C. Escher prints, dollhouse furnishings, and mini-needlepoint rugs.
In 1985, the MPL went online with forty other libraries in the SLS. Like all of the other regional library systems, it supported a computerized card catalog consourtium called a Local Library System Automation Project (LLSAP). The LLSAP for the Metropolitan Library System was called the SWAN (System Wide Area Network) Online Catalog. The SWAN Online Catalog gave library patrons access to the collections of eighty libraries.