Exhibit: Stories We Tell: The History of the Legler Regional Library

The Stories We Tell: The History of the Legler Regional Library exhibit is on display at Legler from June 1 - November 30. Stories We Tell is an exhibit series celebrating 150 years of Chicago Public Library at branches around the system. This exhibit was curated by Assistant Director Megan Greenback, librarian Erika Schmidt and library associate Chris Martin, all from Legler Regional Library.

About Henry Legler

From 1909 until his death in 1917, Italian immigrant Henry Eduard Legler served as Chief Librarian of the Chicago Public Library and was a prominent member and president of the American Library Association.  In 1916, as director of the Chicago Public Library, Henry Legler presented his proposal of a "Library Plan for the Whole City," the first comprehensive branch library system in the nation, which included five regional libraries and 70 local branches. Read more about Henry Legler in our blog post.

Legler History

Since opening in 1920, Legler Regional Library has been an anchor for the West Garfield Park community. In the 1930s, Legler housed a world language collection representing the 21 languages spoken in the area. In the 1940s, Legler librarians drove a bookmobile to bring books and information services to nearby factories, churches and schools. The 1960s brought increased popularity to the young adult collection and a dedication of the Adult Reference Room as a space for a Black Heritage collection.

In 1984, Legler Assistant Director and Librarian Mary Ann Schwehr applied for a state grant that garnered five computers for Legler Regional Library. Community support was high for additional technology to improve career skills and educational training. In 1985, Legler became home to the largest computer lab in CPL’s then 88 branch system. Three Garfield Park residents, including writer and teacher Lynard Barnes, assisted patrons in Legler’s new lab. An estimated 350 community residents stopped by to show support for the new acquisition on opening day.

Legler Today

Legler lost regional status in 1977, but its reinstatement in 2019 demonstrates how important Legler is to the West Garfield Park community. Along with essential library services, Legler’s offerings today include connecting patrons to crucial social services, hosting a free produce market with the Greater Chicago Food Depository, welcoming the inaugural artist-in-residence program and making available Maker Lab equipment to encourage creativity and entrepreneurship.

Do you have any memories of Legler Regional Library? Let us know on social media by tagging #CPL150.

About CPL 150

Chicago Public Library is 150 years young! Since first opening our doors in 1873, we've served all Chicagoans with free and open places to gather, learn, connect, read and be transformed. Join us in celebrating 150 years of serving our communities. Learn more by visiting chipublib.org/150.