Established in 1881 by city ordinance, The Aurora Public Library was located in the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) Hall at 23 East Downer Place until 1904, when the current building at 1 E. Benton St. was erected using a $50,000 grant from philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. In 1969, the library underwent a major renovation, when two three-story wings and a modern façade were added on, expanding the building to its current 44,000 square feet.
The library has grown in other ways over the years. In a 1953 experiment, a Bookmobile was leased from the Illinois State Library to extend services to Aurora’s schoolchildren. Pleased with the results, the library purchased that Bookmobile, and has employed one ever since. The current Bookmobile has served the community since 2003.
In the 1990s, two branch libraries were added. The Eola Road Branch on the city’s east side opened in 1993 and was expanded in 2003 to meet heavy patron demand. The West Branch, on the campus of Washington Middle School, opened in 1998.
With an eye to the future, the library purchased the former Beacon-News property at 101 S. River St. in early 2010 with the intent of building a new, state-of-the-art main library by 2014.
Timeline of Aurora Public Library Events
- 1881 – Public library established in Aurora in the Grand Army of the Republic building as a tax-supported institution
- 1904 – The new public library opens at 1 E. Benton St. after receiving a Carnegie grant for $50,000
- 1919-1965 – Neighborhood branches operate out of several schools including Indian Creek and Brady
- 1942-1957 – Interior refurbishing to modernize the Main Library is carried out on a pay-as-you-go basis
- 1953 – Bookmobile service begins as the “traveling branch”
- 1969 – Expansion project completed, tripling the size of the Main Library by adding wings to the east, west and north sides of the building for added space and passenger elevators; original Carnegie façade is demolished
- 1980 – The Young People’s Department is expanded and remodeled
- 1988-1989 – An automated circulation system is added; computers are introduced as the “library catalog.”
- 1993 – The Eola Road Branch opens (14,000 square feet) as part of a building partnership with the Fox Valley Park District
- 1998 – The West Branch opens (20,000 square feet) as part of a building partnership with the West Aurora School District in Washington Middle School
- 2001 – A space needs assessment is undertaken for the Main Library, and the determination is made that the cost to remodel and/or expand the Main Library, although needed, was prohibitive . The Outreach Services Department and the Technical Services Department are relocated to rented space on Church Road
- 2003 – The Eola Road Branch is expanded to 32,000 square feet to accommodate explosive growth
- 2009 – The former Beacon-News building (101 S. River St.) is purchased and demolished (2010) to become the future site of the new Main Library. Additionally, three smaller parcels between Middle Avenue and Lake Street are purchased as potential parking areas.
- 2010 – Cordogan Clark & Associates are chosen as the architect for the new building project
- 2012 – Express Center opens at 1100 Church Road
- 2013 – Library notified of a $10.8 million state grant for new building project
- 2013 — May 1 groundbreaking ceremony for new library
- 2015 – Opening of Richard and Gina Santori Public Library of Aurora (June)
- 2015 — Dedication and grand opening of The Parker Garden and The Juvenile Protective Association Children’s Nature Garden (August)
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