“The Naperville Public Library, Part II: The New Nichols Library” by S.M. O’Connor

The new Nichols Library in downtown Naperville, Illinois in DuPage County is the central library of the Naperville Public Library (N.P.L.), though both of the branch libraries in Will County are full-service libraries and one of them is actually larger than the Nichols Library. [The N.P.L. is one of the many American public library systems that calls its central library the Main Library.]  It is one of the busiest library buildings in the United States of America.

In 1984, Miriam Fry (1917-2011) retired and the Naperville Public Library Board appointed Roger Pearson the first Library Director, a position which he held until 1995. He had successively been Assistant Director and Director of Libraries in Corpus Christi, Texas.  Beforehand, he had been administrator of the Nicolet Library System,[1] which is headquartered in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and provided support services to public libraries in seven counties.  [For part of the time he was Library Director for the N.P.L., he was also a lecturer at the graduate school Library and Information Science program at Dominican University (formerly Rosary College) in River Forest, Illinois from 1991 to 1995.]  Under his leadership, the Naperville Public Library built the new Nichols Library, vacated the Old Nichols Library, and gained its first branch library with the construction of the Naper Boulevard Library.

The City of Naperville acquired the property at 200 West Jefferson Avenue, and the second Nichols Library opened on March 11, 1986.  The Miriam B. Fry Reading Room is a tribute to the lady who headed The Nichols Library as Librarian or Library Director from 1950 until her retirement in 1984.

The new Nichols Library was a $6,000,000 facility.  At 63,300 square feet, it was almost five times the size of the old Nichols Library. The building and its parking lot occupy the block bounded by Jefferson Avenue on the north, Jackson Avenue on the south, Webster Street on the east, and Eagle Street on the west.  On opening day, the new library had 143,191 books, C.D.s, audio-visual materials, periodicals, and other items with which to serve Naperville’s 67,371 residents.

In 1990, the new Nichols Library had a display on dyslexia with the help of a memorial fund for James L. Nichols III (1922-1989).[2]  Late in life he had discovered he was dyslexic.[3]  James L. Nichols IV commented, “We decided the best thing in his honor would be a dyslexic program at Nichols Library.”[4]

DSCN1192Figure 1 Credit: Sean M. O’Connor Caption: This is the Nichols Library, central library of the Naperville Public Library, as seen on December 4, 2010.

 

In front of the Nichols Library (at one angle) at the corner of Jefferson and Webster is the bas-relief brick sculpture Man’s Search for Knowledge through the Ages.  It was a gift of Mr. & Mrs. John A. Hamer and Mr. & Mrs. John J. Hamer in honor of Donald Dean Hamer (1933-1984).  It was dedicated April 12, 1987.  The sundial that stands at the center of the semicircle was a gift of the Naperville Council of Garden Clubs.

DSCN1191Figure 2 Sean M. O’Connor Caption: This is Man’s Search for Knowledge through the Ages, as seen on December 4, 2010.

DSCN1195Figure 3 Credit: Sean M. O’Connor Caption: Man’s Search for Knowledge through the Ages is a bas-relief sculpture, carved in brick, as seen on December 4, 2010.

 

The Nichols Library is also within walking distance (in good weather) of The Riverwalk.  The sixteen-story Millennium Carillon in Moser Tower & Visitor Center is open May through October.

DSCN1193Figure 4 Credit: Sean M. O’Connor Caption: This is Moser Tower & Visitor Center, as seen on December 4, 2010.  Moser Tower stands at the base of the Riverwalk’s Rotary Hill.  The address is 443 Aurora Avenue.

 

Through the 1980s, Naperville’s population doubled, and usage of the Naperville Public Library continued to rise dramatically, and by 1990 circulation reached 943,355 – about 50,000 short of 1,000,000 items through just one facility. Soon after the second Nichols Library opened, the Naperville Public Library Board began to talk of establishing a “triangle” of full-service libraries, adding one in the southeast of town and one in the southwest.

After Itasca, Illinois–based Williams Architects planned a successful renovation of the Naper Boulevard Library, the firm received a commission to plan the renovation of a 41,500-square-foot area in the Nichols Library that took place in 2015.  All the public areas in the building underwent renovations on a $2,500,000 budget.  New carpeting, flooring, tables, and chairs were installed.  Due to reductions in the print collections, the collections and seating was reorganized in a way to open up views on both floors of the West Branch of the DuPage River and the Naperville Riverwalk.  A “Tech Help” desk was installed to allow library patrons to receive help with their own mobile devices.  The meeting rooms and group study rooms were renovated to increase access to technology and allow for more flexible usage.  Throughout the building, lighting was replaced.  New, energy-efficient L.E.D. lighting was installed.

Olya Tymciurak, who was formerly Manager of the 95th Street Library, replaced Sue Prindiville as Library Manager of the Nichols Library. Previously, she was Library Manager of the Naper Boulevard Library, so at this point she had managed all three of the libraries. Ms. Tymciurak joined the N.P.L. staff in 1991, having earned her B.A. in East European and Eurasian Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and her M.L.I.S. at the University of Toronto.  She previously worked at the University of Arizona Library, the Tucson Planning Department Library, the Tucson Public Library, the Utah State Library, and the Salt Lake County Library.  While employed full-time at the Naperville Public Library, she worked simultaneously part-time at the West Chicago Public Library in West Chicago, Illinois as an Adult Reference Librarian from 2007 to 2016 and currently works part-time in the same capacity at the Mount Prospect Public Library in Mount Prospect, Illinois so she must have practically no free time.

The new Nichols Library is open from 1:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. on Sundays September through May and from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Sundays June through August, from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, and from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Saturdays.  It is down the street from the Apple Store at 120 West Jefferson Avenue and roughly kitty corner from the Lou Malnati’s pizzeria housed in an old firehouse at 131 West Jefferson Avenue. The address of the new Nichols Library is 200 West Jefferson, Naperville, Illinois 60540.  The phone number of the Naperville Public Library (NPL) is (630) 961-4100, while the extension for general information at the Nichols Library is 6322.

 

ENDNOTES

[1] Today, the Nicolet Federated Library System provides support services to forty-two public libraries in eight counties.  It is one of sixteen such state-funded library systems in Wisconsin.  They are counterparts to the two Illinois Regional Library Systems: Reaching Across Illinois System and the Illinois Heartland Library System.

[2] Ann Piccininni, “A Family Worth celebrating,” Chicago Tribune, 21 September, 1990 (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-xpm-1990-09-21-9003190330-story.html) Accessed 10/13/18

[3] Ibid

[4] Ibid

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