Mission & History

Library Mission

Lake Forest Library: Inspiring lifelong learning, promoting the free and respectful exchange of ideas, and building community.

Library Vision

We believe passionately in the transformative power of ideas and the future of libraries, enabling everyone in the community to fulfill the universal desire to learn, explore, and belong.

Lake Forest Library through the years


Lake Forest Library was chartered on July 4, 1898, by Lake Forest City Council. The first library board members, appointed by Mayor Edward F. Gorton soon after granting the charter, were J.J. Halsey, D.W. Hartman, Calvin Durand, George S. Holt, Charles S. Frost, John Kemp, David B. Jones, Richard G. Watson, and David Fales.


Library opens on second floor of Lake Forest City Hall as part of that building's opening on June 24.

Marie A. Skinner begins as Library Director.


Mary Van Horne begins as Library Director in November.


First catalog listing books by author and subject.


Esther K. Johnston begins as Library Director.


Frances Kemp begins as Library Director on April 1.


Stella R. Glasgow begins as Library Director on March 1.


Architectural Landscape drawings prepared for the Foundation for Architecture and Landscape Architecture installed at the Library.


The Library moved to its current location at 360 East Deerpath Road on June 7, 1931. The present building, designed as a library by architect Edwin H. Clark, was given to the City of Lake Forest by Mrs. Charles H. Schweppe and Mrs. Stanley Keith in memory of Mrs. Keith's first husband, Kersey Coates Reed, and was dedicated on June 7, 1931.

The building and siting of the Library was overseen by the Library President, Alfred E. Hamill, a wealthy book collector, poet, investment banker and friend of David Adler, who had designed Hamill's Centaurs estate.

Designed in the Art Deco style popular in the 1920s and 1930s, the Library is located in a National Register Historic District. The building follows a classic symmetrical plan around a central domed rotunda, similar to the 1929 Shedd Aquarium. The building, its landscape, and its art are an excellent example of the Chicago Renaissance, the period from the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition to the start of World War II.

The high-ceilinged, wood-paneled rooms on the building’s main level contribute to its warm and inviting atmosphere. The fireplace in the Friends Reading Room is lit from November to April.

"The Archer" Kersey Coates Reed memorial covered limestone bas-relief by Oskar J. W. Hansen (1892–1971) by Oskar J. W. Hansen installed in the Library's Rotunda. The archer's face is a likeness of Mr. Reed. The inscription reads "In memory of Kersey Coates Reed, eighteen hundred and eighty—nineteen hundred and twenty-nine—who was much loved in Lake Forest—where he lived—and who cared greatly for good books—this building has been erected."


Twelve oil on canvas murals painted by Nicolai Remisoff (1887–1975) line the walls of the Rotunda and depict "Poets and Writers of Antiquity."

U. Langenegger's wood sculpture busts of Ralph Waldo Emerson (Friends Reading Room) and John Greenleaf Whittier (Reference Room) installed.


The Library's name changed from Lake Forest Public Library to Lake Forest Library after Board President Alfred E. Hamill petitioned the City Council for the change "as a gesture of appreciation to the donors Mrs. Reed and Mrs. Schweppe."


Nell Steele begins as Library Director.


Summer Reading program for children started.


Frances M. Macke begins as Library Director on July 1.


Frances R. "Gine" Odell's "Lion and Lamb" limestone sculpture installed in West Courtyard.


Installation in Children's Department of bronze and wood sculpture "Apple Tree Children" by Sylvia Shaw Judson, daughter of Howard Van Doren Shaw.

Interlibrary Loan Service begins.

Young Adult collection established.


Louise Wells Kasian begins as Library Director in September.


Friends of Lake Forest Library formed.


Friends of Lake Forest Library first book sale.


Three new wings (architects Brenner, Danforth, and Rockwell) officially dedicated. Funds for the $1.1 million addition were underwritten by gifts from the community and a substantial donation from the Reed family.

Computerized circulation

Sydney S. Mellinger begins as Library Director on September 26.

"Seagulls" quartz sculpture by Dorothy Hobbs Boehm installed (in Fine Arts Room locked case).


"Flora and Fauna of Illinois" needlepoint tapestry designed by Lydia Lee; assisted by Kathleen McLaughlin Ballen; stitched by Lake Forest–Lake Bluff Needlepeople installed in former Garden Room (now Business Room).

"Girl Feeding Three Squirrels" bronzed sculpture by Dorothy Hobbs Boehm installed (now on east exterior of Children's Activity Room)


Open Sundays


"Someone To Look Up To" watercolor diptych by Caroline Roberts installed in Children's Library


Public Access Catalog service begins


Kaye Grabbe begins as Library Director on April 11.

Wolfgang Kubach & Anna Maria Kubach-Wilmsen's "Lake Forest Library Stone Book" marble sculpture installed in east courtyard in August.

George S. Chappell's set of four photographs, "The Seasons" installed in foyer stairway (now in Reference Room Annex).


Three-level book stack renovation


Children's Library renovation, including Thomas Melvin mural for Children's foyer commissioned in memory of Douglas Keyt by Friends of Lake Forest Library


"Market Square" (set of two watercolors) by David T. Roberts installed in reference annex.


Public Internet access and Library web site started


Adult Reference room, Reference Annex, and Reading Room renovations(Reading Room dedicated to Frank Kreuz and named "Friends Reading Room")

Michael Croydon's, "Ex Libris" sculpture commissioned and installed on the library's front lawn

Local Area Network available

In 1996, renovations and refurbishing were completed in the Adult Reference Room and the Friends Reading Room. The Deer Path Art League of Lake Forest commissioned a Michael Croydon sculpture entitled Ex Libris, which was installed on the Library front lawn. The Friends of Lake Forest Library funded the restoration of the original 1931 Nicolai Remisoff murals located in the Library rotunda.


Restoration of the Nicolai Remisoff "Poets and Writers of Antiquity" murals originally installed in 1932(restoration funded by Friends of Lake Forest Library)

Dial-in access to Local Area Network


Stained glass windows installed in Children's foyer by Alexander Glass Company, Rolling Meadows, Illinois.

"Seasons" hand-painted ceramic tiles by Yvette Levita-Scimeca installed in children's restrooms.

"Lake Forest Library" watercolor painting by Mark McMahon was commissioned by Friends of Lake Forest Library in honor of the Library's Centennial and installed in foyer.

"Troll Under Bridge" conte crayon drawing by Ruth Tietjen Councell installed in Children's Library. Created during the Centennial kick-off celebration in May.


Digitized Community Cornerstone Architectural files

Library Centennial

Friends commissioned Mark McMahon painting of the building

Book cart at Forest Park Beach


Completion of the Louise Wells Kasian Children's Activity Center in the space of the former children's courtyard, designed by David Woodhouse Architects.

Integrated Library System migration from GEAC to Sirsi

2nd Local Area Network upgrade

In the fall of 2000, the Children’s Library courtyard was covered, enclosed, and renamed the Louise Wells Kasian Children's Activity Center. Furnishings were funded by Friends of Lake Forest Library. The room, currently known as the Kasian Room, hosts many programs for both children and adults.


John James Audubon's ten aquatint engravings from "The Birds of America" restored by Kenyon Oppenheimer, Inc. (now Joel Oppenheimer, Inc.), funded by Friends of Lake Forest Library, memorial gifts, and the Library.


Business Room renovation funded by the Eugene A. and Emily L. Veto Foundation and Friends of Lake Forest Library


Mark McMahon painting of Friends Book Sale


Friends Landscape Plan


Fine Arts Room renovation funded by Friends of Lake Forest Library.


Garden Room refurbished

3rd Local Area Network upgrade

Wireless access

24/7 reference service, AskAway

75th Anniversary of the library building (June 7)

NetLibrary first eAudiobook download service


Alfred Medica memorial sculpture at front entrance (Peter Hessemer, sculptor)

1st Friends June Children's book sale in foyer


Staff Room renovated


Renovation of Children's Library including the commissioning of additional Thomas Melvin murals(stairwells, over circulation desk, over north area, and elevator and emergency exit doors by Friends of Lake Forest Library

Overdrive eBooks and eAudiobooks available

Online Mango Language service

Building-wide CCTV system installed


Social Networking: Facebook, Twitter

Freegal Music free music download resource added.

Franklin McMahon painting of Hemingway's house in Key West


Social Networking: FourSquare and QR codes

DVD2GO (Media Bank) self-serve DVD unit at west side (Milwaukee Road) train station


New web site: www.lakeforestlibrary.org

e-Pay for patrons


Slate roof restored

New signage in Children's Library

Initial year for the One Book One City program


Window restoration project with funds from private donors and the Friends of Lake Forest Library.

Zinio downloadable magazines

One Book One City program continues as Lake Forest Reads: Ragdale (a partnership with The Ragdale Foundation)


New signage installed in adult areas.

3M eBook resource added.

Media Lab designed by Dewberry and funded from private donors and the Friends of Lake Forest Library.


Exterior east stair railing replaced and redesigned.

Restoration of exterior courtyard gates.


Lake Forester newspaper from 1899-1940 digitized.

Hoopla e-content service added.

Courtyard doors and stairwell carpeting replaced.

Director Kaye Grabbe retires in April after 28 years and gives the Library a Franklin McMahon original watercolor: "Reading the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of the United States and the Bill of Rights."

Catherine A. Lemmer begins as Library Director on May 16.


Library logo redesigned.

Exhibit about Remisoff murals presented in the Foyer and Rotunda.


Library website and newsletter redesigned.

120 years of Lake Forest Library celebrated in July.

Exhibit about Library history presented in the Foyer.


First year of Read Between the Ravines (originally called Deep Freeze Read), the Two Communities / One Nonfiction Book program in partnership with Lake Bluff Public Library.


Library goes fine-free on February 1.

Library remained open online and by phone during COVID-19 pandemic stay-at-home orders.

Live chat added to the website for patrons to contact librarians.


"Lake Forest Fourth of July Concert of the Green" painting by Mark McMahon and three prints from the "Vienna Opera Series" by Franklin McMahon donated to the Library.

1000 Books Before Kindergarten early literacy program launched

Accessibility Collections added to support Library users of all ages, abilities, and diverse learning and development needs to be successful in the Library and the community

10th year of Lake Forest Reads (previously Lake Forest Reads: Ragdale)

Joined the Illinois Libraries Present consortium to bring high-quality virtual author events to Lake Forest patrons

Internet upgraded to fiber and additional WiFi access points installed

Collections converted to RFID


Self-check machines and new security gates installed in the Rotunda and Children's Library.

Lake Forest Authors collection added


David J. Seleb begins as Interim Executive Director on January 9