Head of Youth Services Angela Messaglia, second from left, welcomed family members from left, Susan Messaglia, Christina Messaglia Fulton, and John Messaglia, to the Homewood Public Library's 100th gala. (Marilyn Thomas/H-F Chronicle)
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Community marks 100 years of the Homewood Public Library

A grand idea in 1924 to start a library was celebrated 100 years later when supporters gathered at the Homewood Public Library April 27 to mark the special occasion.

Guests, seated in the center of the library, enjoyed hors d’oeuvres and listened to entertainer Ava Logan. Long-time supporters shared memories of the library’s buildings and others offered comments on what the library has meant to them.

Head of Youth Services Angela Messaglia, second from left, welcomed family members from left, Susan Messaglia, Christina Messaglia Fulton, and John Messaglia, to the Homewood Public Library’s 100th gala. (Marilyn Thomas/H-F Chronicle)

Stephanie Anthony said she had to come to the party to join the celebration because “I love the library and I love the service.” She’s been coming to the library since her son was in first grade. He’s now a college student.

The library was organized in 1920 when four women in a Women’s Club and led the first book exchange. Four years later, the Women’s Club helped organize a vote to establish a library district.

Stephanie Anthony has her sketch done by artist Ernest Posey. (Marilyn Thomas/H-F Chronicle)
Stephanie Anthony has her sketch done by artist Ernest Posey. (Marilyn Thomas/H-F Chronicle)

The first book exchange was in a real estate office in a private home. Homewood historian Elaine Egdorf said credit goes to Fannie Bretz who petitioned the Illinois Central Railroad for its old depot that would house the newly established library for the next 39 years. Egdorf said the railroad made the building available, but it was the Women’s Club that spearheaded fundraising to move the depot into town and refurbish it.

In 1962, the library board opened a two-story brick building at 17900 Dixie Highway, but over time it too was deemed too small to serve a growing community. The current building at 17917 Dixie Highway opened in 1990.

Lori Whitney, who was a member of the library board at the time, said she first became involved with the library in 1984 as a member of the Homewood Junior Women’s Club. She started volunteering when her son was three years old. She was president of the Homewood Junior Women’s Club whose members would come read to children and do volunteer work.

Whitney finished her term with the Junior Women’s Club and then took a seat on the library board just as the board was getting ready to move forward on a new building. 

Celebrants at the Homewood Public Library's 100th anniversary celebration are, from left, Kim O'Lone, Jim Joyce, Sharon Bouchie, former library board member George Bouchie and librarian Sharon Lade. (Marilyn Thomas/H-F Chronicle)
Celebrants at the Homewood Public Library’s 100th anniversary celebration are, from left, Kim O’Lone, Jim Joyce, Sharon Bouchie, former library board member George Bouchie and librarian Sharon Lade. (Marilyn Thomas/H-F Chronicle)

Whitney and Peg Boivin of Homewood, a volunteer for more than 50 years, now are members of Friends of the Library.  They recalled book sales that would draw crowds every week.

“Do you remember when we had the huge book sale in the meeting room?” Boivin asked. “I wish we’d had a thousand romance paperbacks,” Whitney said. “They always went.” 

Maria and Joel Gonzalez took a "spin" in the roaster that was part of the decorations for the Homewood Public Library's 100th celebration. (Marilyn Thomas/H-F Chronicle)
Maria and Joel Gonzalez took a “spin” in the roaster that was part of the decorations for the Homewood Public Library’s 100th celebration. (Marilyn Thomas/H-F Chronicle)

Whitney and Bovin still prefer reading a book rather than reading on a device, but current library board member Jacoba Ward said the changes to electronic book checkout are keeping more people involved.

Rosie Joyce, a library staff member in youth services, sold raffle tickets during the party. (Marilyn Thomas/H-F Chronicle)
Rosie Joyce, a library staff member in youth services, sold raffle
tickets during the party. (Marilyn Thomas/H-F Chronicle)

“There’s a shift. I never read anything on a Kindle, but it’s just not me. I think a lot of it is personal preference. I don’t necessarily think its age connected. I think for people who don’t have time to run into the library it’s convenient. They can look at the (library) catalog and if it’s not physically here, you just check it out (online),” Ward said.

Ward said involvement with the library is up; the numbers since the COVID shutdown are encouraging. And board members appreciate the notes patrons write about the library’s operations and programs.

“You can tell that the staff is super creative. They come up with all these (program) ideas and it’s not just for kids,” she said. The latest senior outings are especially welcome.

Rose Olsar remembers when the Friends of the Library was organized in 1990 with five volunteers. She was its first president. The Friends of the Library book sales have raised about $750,000 the past 30-plus years, she said. The money helped fund the teen center on the second floor and supported a variety of programming.

Years have passed since that 1990 meeting, but Olsar her support hasn’t wained. “I love to read, and I love the library.”

Rose Olsar reviews the library’s history. (Marilyn Thomas/H-F Chronicle)

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