The Chatham Community Library began in 1970 as a project of the Woman’s Club of Chatham. It operated with volunteers, donations and revenue sharing funds from Ball and Chatham Townships and the Village of Chatham.
In 1982 the library was restructured and from 1983-86 was administered by a 17 member board who were representatives of various local civil and service organizations. This 17-member Board was responsible for the library’s being awarded a Project Plus grant which permitted the Board to establish a full service demonstration library. The Library opened in the Main Plaza Shopping Center on December 6, 1986 with 1600 sq. ft. of space, a book collection of 5,798 volumes and Laura Berk appointed as head Librarian.
The Library Board then asked the residents of Chatham in the form of a referendum to fund a library district. On April 7, 1987 the referendum was voted on and approved by an overwhelming 80% of those voting. Following that election the Chatham Area Library District was funded for another year as a Project Plus library and began collecting its first tax revenues in July, 1988, at which time the librarian, Linda Meyer was hired.
On November 17, 1988 the reading/browsing multi-purpose area of the library opened adding an additional 700 sq. ft. In 1989 the Library became a member of the Rolling Prairie Library System and the first 7- member elected Board took office.
On November, 18 1989 the annexation of Woodside Township within the Ball Chatham School District became final which made all residents of the School District eligible for library service.
In May, 1990, a new children’s area of 700sq. ft. was completed bringing the total leased space to 3.000 sq. ft. At the end of the 1991/92 fiscal year the library had registered as patrons 6,375 (59%) of the Library District’s approximately 10,878 residents.
In May 1992 the Library went on-line with 23 other libraries in the Rolling Prairie Library System’s database. This was made possible with a $10,000 federal (LSCA) grant. During the first six months bar-coded patron cards were issued to over 3,000 of the District’s patrons.
Early in 1992 the Library Board of Trustees determined that planning for the constructing of a permanent library facility for the Chatham area community should begin. Dick Thompson was hired in August, 1992 as the building consultant. A building program and 20 year plan for the library was developed and submitted to the Library Board in October for approval. Preparations for this project began with the formation of a committee of Library Board, Friends and community members to interview architects. Library architects, Frye Gillan Molinaro were selected to prepare a preliminary design and a decision was made to place a referendum on the April, 1993 ballot. Thirty sites were investigated. A two-acre tentative site was selected adjacent to St. Joseph’s Catholic Church with a proposed joint parking/maintenance agreement. On April 20, 1993 the building bond proposal was defeated by 223 votes while the corresponding levy increase was defeated by 554 votes. A decision was made to evaluate the results, seek community input and put the referendum back on the ballot in the Spring of 1994.
During the next several months, building plans were scaled back, site selections were reviewed, community input was received and a timetable was developed for a March 15, 1994 building bond referendum. The referendum was approved by 280 votes. Following the referendum the library applied for and received a $250,000 State Library Construction Grant which allowed the Board to proceed with plans to build and finish the 13,600 square foot facility.
Groundbreaking took place on March 5, 1995 and BRH Builders completed the project by December 6, 1995 when the library reopened in the new facility at 600 East Spruce. The dedication and Grand Opening was held January 21, 1996.
Donations totaling approximately $55,000 were received through the Friends Beyond the Basics campaign. These funds were used to equip and furnish items beyond the scope of the building budget.
By 2005, the community had grown to 10,260 and the Library District’s population had grown to 14,849. Although the library was built just 13 years ago, Chatham’s swift growth made the expansion a necessity.
In November 2006, voters approved a $2.9 million bond issue to pay for the expansion. The rest of the money comes from the library’s “Come Grow with Us” capital campaign which raised $80,000, and $450,000 from the library board reserve funds. The three-phase expansion and renovation, which began in October 2007 with additional space built on the west side of the facility, includes a genealogy room, a computer lab with 15 desktop and 13 laptop computers, floor space for various library materials, two reading areas, a toddler area, community meeting rooms, expanded children’s library and a bookstore that also serves as a cafe. With the addition, the library, now has 28,900 square feet of space.
In June of 2009 Director Linda Meyer retired after twenty years of service at which time Amy Ihnen became Director.
The library is continuing to expand its resources and services in an effort to meet the demands of the steadily growing Chatham Area Community