Creating Wilmette’s Public Library

For the first 35 years of Wilmette’s history, the town lacked an official public library. Starting in the 1880s, the Elmwood Library Association kept books with the Royal Arcanum, a local fraternal order (more commonly known as a secret society).

Unfortunately, the Royal Arcanum Hall (pictured left) was rendered unusable in 1899 after a fire, leaving several hundred books displaced.

The Woman’s Club’s Makeshift Library

The Woman’s Club volunteered to house the displaced books and run a makeshift library service in rented rooms on Central Ave. At the same time, they worked to drum up support for constructing an official public library.

The members’ contributions as librarians and lobbyists kept the 1,000 books accessible and in good condition until the Wilmette Free Library opened in 1904. One member, Anna Law, became the first librarian of the new public library.