An Introduction to the District
A Generous Beginning
Public library services in Lockport Township were first offered in 1921, when the Lockport Woman’s Club started a volunteer library in Lockport, Illinois. The first library location was Pilgrim Hall, which was rented for $25.00 a month. Several unsuccessful attempts were made to establish a tax-supported town library and eventually voters approved the establishment of the Lockport Township Public Library in 1929. After being housed in several locations, the library trustees purchased the Boyer residence in 1932 for $19,000.00 and remodeled it for $15,000.00—quite an accomplishment and commitment in 1932! A small addition was built in 1938 at a cost of $1,931.00.
Responding to Growing Communities
In 1965, responding to changing needs and a growing community, the library trustees voted to sell three-quarters of the library’s property to the First National Bank of Lockport, and to build a new two story building on the remainder of the land. At that time, the library owned 33,135 books and circulated 122,135 items per year. The new 16,500 square foot library building was built for $257,459.00 and opened to the public in 1966. Federal LSCA funds were used for a portion of the cost. In 1969, the library trustees agreed to expand services to Crest Hill. A plot of land in Crest Hill was donated and a 7,600 square foot library building was constructed at a cost of $221,710.00. Federal funds were also used for this project.
Recognizing the need for better service coordination and greater cost efficiencies, the Crest Hill and Lockport libraries separated from the Lockport Township government and became the two branches of the Des Plaines Valley Public Library District in 1981. For many years the new District’s boundaries continued to be those of Lockport Township. That changed when the City of Crest Hill experienced some limited growth into unincorporated areas of Joliet Township, Troy Township, and Plainfield Township, with the library District boundaries expanding to follow along with this growth.
During the 1990s and early 2000s, huge growth in population occurred throughout the area. The Village of Romeoville, formerly contained almost completely within DuPage Township to the north, grew southward into open land in northwest Lockport Township. Thus by 2006, around two thirds of the Village of Romeoville’s residents lived within Lockport Township and supported the Des Plaines Valley Public Library District through their property taxes. However, these residents self-identified with Romeoville more so than Lockport or Crest Hill and therefore preferred to use the Fountaindale Public Library District’s Romeoville Branch (located in the older part of town, in DuPage Township, to the north of 135th Street).
In 2008, a transfer of territory was achieved with the Fountaindale Public Library District transferring over to the Des Plaines Valley Public Library District all of the parts of Romeoville that were contained within DuPage Township as well as all of the areas that would likely someday be a part of the village of Romeoville (such as the large Carillon development).
Growth Beyond Expectations
With a view to population growth and increasing need for library services, the trustees of the Des Plaines Valley Public Library District authorized placement of a building bond referendum on the ballot in November 2008. This measure would have authorized construction of three new libraries to serve the greater Crest Hill, Lockport, and Romeoville communities. That ballot measure failed, as did a similar measure placed on the spring 2009 ballot. In February 2010, the district voters approved a $23 million building bond measure to construct a new Crest Hill branch library, completely refurbish and expand the Lockport branch library, and to purchase the Fountaindale Public Library District’s old Romeoville branch library and to completely refurbish that facility.
New Name, New Facilities
In June 2011, the Board of Trustees voted to legally change the name of the organization to White Oak Library District, to capitalize on greater marketing capabilities and to signify a new beginning for these area libraries.
A complete overhaul was begun on the Romeoville Branch facility in April 2011, with that building being completed and put back into full service in June 2012.
Construction of the new Crest Hill Branch was begun in August 2012, with that facility being opened to the public in September 2013.
The Lockport Branch was closed and library services were temporarily moved to the Gaylord Building in downtown Lockport in February 2012. Removal of asbestos from the Lockport Branch facility began shortly after, in the spring of 2012. The remodeling and expansion of the building started in September 2012 and that facility was re-opened to the public in September 2013.