When the Oak Lawn Public Library was moved from a dusty barn to a 19th century farm house, nobody could have imagined that their community could one day boast of having the largest collection of books in the Southland.
Relocated in the midst of the Great Depression, the first librarian’s salary was paid for through the Works Progress Administration. And although FDR’s New Deal program provided only temporary funding, residents enthusiastically supported the growing library.
Highlighting the near-constant expansion of the library facilities, the photo exhibit featured in the second-floor art gallery will be on display until the end of November. The carefully-selected photographs will help demonstrate to visitors the parallel stories of Oak Lawn and its famous library.
“You could almost look at the growth of the library as a microcosm of the changes that took place in Oak Lawn and the surrounding communities,” explained Local History Coordinator Kevin Korst.
Korst, who has headed the Local History program since 2007, has come across his fair share of interesting stories related to the library’s past. When game show fever swept across the country, staff at the library soon found themselves in the center of a new American fad.
“During the 1940s and 1950s, librarians received so many calls from residents looking for answers for TV game shows that they considered removing their number from the directory,” Korst laughed.
The exhibit also features several written accounts of memorable experiences as told by Oak Lawn residents.
“One story I recall is when I ran into an old friend I had not seen in 25 years,” wrote Theresa Gerigts. “Since that day when we saw each other in the library, we have not lost touch. We are now as close as when we were in high school”.
Winnie Koszyk, another longtime Oak Lawn resident, recalled how one a past reference librarian helped her with a special request.
“One very nice memory was when Mr. Goodfellow mended my 80-year-old children’s book that I wanted to present to my granddaughter. She loves it and still has it on display to this day”.
The 75th Anniversary Photo Exhibit will be on display at the Oak Lawn Public Library Art Gallery until November 30. If you have a fond memory related to the library, or would like to donate an artifact, please visit the Local History Room.