This is the history of Byron Public Library District to the best of our knowledge. Thank you to Mrs. Nelene Jeter who provided us with some of the information included here. If there is something that is incorrect, please don’t hesitate to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
History of Byron Library
In 1902, Mrs. Oliver Strang founded a small commercial library in her home called the Twentieth Century Library. She charged a rental of five cents a week for her books and expanded for many, the world of reading. She separated the books into three categories: adults, older boys and girls, and youngsters. See Byron Express article entitled First Byron Library Was in Strang Home.
The Byron Public Library was founded in 1916 by Miss Margaret Wray as a project for a teenage girl’s club. Operating out of the second floor of a telephone warehouse owned by Mr. Fred Nott; the operation was run by volunteers. Two years later, as club members graduated from high school, Miss Wray set up the library in the Mary Seavey house (later known as Shank apartments) as a Red Cross activity. The Byron Community Council became the library sponsor in 1918. Eventually, the library was moved to rooms in the Wagner apartments. Next, Dr. Mary Blount offered the use of her house to the Red Cross group and the library. The books remained there until Mrs. Fransula Creager gave her home to the City of Byron for a community center in 1922. Volunteer, Mrs. Ardis Sherman classified and cataloged the entire library beginning on May 8 and finishing June 12 of 1959. According to the book, Reflections, Mrs. Ardis Sherman gave 61 years of volunteer service to the Byron Library.
On January 1, 1964 Blanche Haye, a retired librarian from the Los Angeles system, was installed as Byron’s first paid librarian. Poor health forced her retirement before the year was up. In the spring of 1964, Beulah Featherstone succeeded Mrs. Haye as librarian and served until June 30, 1970. Mrs. Featherstone resigned for health reason and Mrs. Duncan served until July, 1973. Mrs. Virginia Jones served as head librarian until Mrs. Penny O’Rourke was hired as Director of the Byron Public Library District on June 1, 1974.
In 1970, the City Council of the City of Byron passed Ordinance No. 69-11 establishing a public library and providing for the levy of taxes in support thereof. The first library board consisted of nine members who were Mr. Gene McNames, Chairman; Mr. Earl Pierson, Vice-Chairman; Mrs. Cleo Boger, Secretary; Mr. James Calvert, Mrs. Lillian Thomas, Mrs. Janice Merson, Mrs. Florence Cox, Mrs. Margaret Walker and Mrs. Ardis Sherman. Also in 1970, the library became a member of the Northern Illinois Library System.
A favorable referendum held in September 1971 enabled the Byron City Council to buy the property at the corner of Third and Washington Street, which had been vacated in 1970 by the United Church of Christ. On April 28 and 29 of 1972, the library moved to a portion of the Stewart Craig Thomson Cultural Center and conducted business on the second floor until 1985. It became apparent that the seating, book collection area, work and storage spaces were very limited.
Another favorable referendum held in April 1979 approved the creation of the Byron Public Library District and the creation of boundaries for the District. By September 1982, the library purchased the previous site of Byron Schools from 1853-1964, now known as 109 N. Franklin Street for the purpose of building. A construction grant of $250,000 received in September of 1984 helped pay on the $649,000 cost of the redwood and brick structure which opened on November 11, 1985. On December 8, 1985 the library held an open house and library dedication. On May 2, 1993, the Byron Public Library was named “The Gene R. McNames Memorial Library” in honor of Mr. McNames’ 22 years of service and dedication as a Board member and citizen dating back to May 26, 1970. This commemoration featured a speech given by Board President Dr. Nicholas Johnson written in collaboration with former Board Member Mrs. Cleo Boger.
After outgrowing the building in both collections and services, the Board of Trustees began acquiring the property now known as 100 S. Washington Street in 2002. The Byron Public Library District moved into the new building in July of 2009. With monies provided by a geothermal grant, a one-time transferrable Insurance reserve fund, accumulated general funds and bonds, the library built a long-term design to serve the community. On August 30, 2009, the library held an open house complete with tours and entertainment. The library was not only built with future growth in mind, but also with the green environmental features as recognized by The U.S. Green Building Council. In 2009 the Byron Public Library received the Green Business Award by the Byron Forest Preserve and the Byron Chamber of Commerce. In 2010, Byron Public Library received a Leed® certified Gold status.