Does MPHS have photographs: Yes
Date of Interview: Unknown
Interviewer: Dolores Haugh
Oral History Text:
DOLORES HAUGH: …interviewer is Dolores Haugh. I’m interviewing Mary Jo Hutchings. I want to thank you, Mary Jo, for consenting to our conversation this morning. Well, there’s a lot of things that you know, Mary Jo, I’m sure, that are of interest to the people. I’ve known you for a long time, and have always felt that you’ve contributed so much, not only through the library but now through the Mount Prospect Women’s Club. We’re just going to kind of reminisce a little bit about when things started rolling, and pick your brain, so to speak.
MARY JO HUTCHINGS: Okay.
HAUGH: I think the one thing I left off at the beginning was your address, so if you just want to give me that, that’s okay.
HAUGH: And when were you born?
HUTCHINGS: County Cork, Ireland.
HAUGH: Ah! How wonderful. Sure ‘n’ begorra.
HUTCHINGS: Sure ‘n’ begorra.
HAUGH: And it says “when,” but you don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to.
HUTCHINGS: Oh, I’m getting to the age now where it’s okay. 1919.
HAUGH: And your grandparents were? Why don’t we just skip that one over a little bit. When did you move to Mount Prospect?
HUTCHINGS: I moved to Mount Prospect June 26, 1965-one of the best moves we’ve ever done.
HAUGH: Oh, I love it. That’s what I like to hear. Have you ever lived anywhere else in the village?
HUTCHINGS: No, not in the village. My husband found this house on a rainy night.
HAUGH: Ch, how nice.
HUTCHINGS: He called me in Elizabethton, Tennessee, and said, “I found this house which I think is great. It’s close to the high school. We don’t have to bus them. Would you like to come up and look at it?” And I said, “No. If you like it, that’s fine,” and that’s what happened.
HAUGH: Were your children in high school then, or not yet?
HUTCHINGS: No, they had just finished eighth grade in Tennessee and were preparing for high school here, and so we were
looking for a good high school and we found one.
HAUGH: Right. Prospect, right?
HAUGH: Right on. And when you did move in, the downtown is pretty much where it is now, right?
HUTCHINGS: Yes, pretty much the same. I think it was a little different from what it is now. We used to shop at the A&P that was north of Central right there on [Route] 83, and that was very convenient.
HAUGH: Did you know Gusse~ that used to work in there?
HAUGH: Ch. I thought maybe you might. She was an old-timer in that A&P. Some of the other stores that you off-hand remember that you kind of used-how about the drugstore? Which one was there. ..?
HUTCHINGS: Ch, Duretti’s we got to know very well, because Grandpa and Grandma lived with us and so Mr. Duretti and I got to be old friends.
HAUGH: Real buddies. Now, that was in the same place it is now, right?
HAUGH: Ch, okay. At that time the village was growing-I mean, there were new stores coming in.
HUTCHINGS: Ch, it certainly was growing at that time.
HAUGH: But I think most of the time that you were here, I wanted to get into some of your earlier recollections of the library, and tell me a little bit about how you got into the Mount Prospect library and when, and a little bit about the background-and I’ll just let you talk.
HUTCHINGS: Well, that was funny because we moved here, as I say, in June and went in to get a card right away-that’s the first thing any normal librarian does is to see where the library is.
HAUGH: Oh, where did you go to school, by the way?
HUTCHINGS: The University of Illinois.
HAUGH: In library science?
HUTCHINGS: Oh, yes. I have a master’s in library science.
HUTCHINGS: And I worked there-I worked at Northwestern; at the university library for a year after I had gotten my degree, and then I went to Lake Forest and I was there for five years, and then I went on to Northwestern University library. They didn’t know what to do with me up there, so they got me a special job which was their first reader’s adviser at Northwestern University. Of course, we were real pleased about that because my husband’s family is quite involved with Northwestern University, and one of our daughters graduated from Northwestern University.
HAUGH: Which one?
HUTCHINGS: Donna. But anyway, that would be a whole long story in itself. Let’s go back to what you asked me about. When we moved here, we went to the library, and the librarian came out and said, “Gee, you look familiar.” I said, “No, I just moved here two days ago.” And she said, “You’re Mary. ..Mary Jo something,” and I said, “Oh yes, I’m Mary Jo Hutchings.” And she said, “Crystal Lake.” I had been the librarian at Crystal Lake also-it sounds like I couldn’t keep a job, doesn’t it?-before. Mrs. Schlemmer was the [Mount Prospect] librarian at that time. The place was growing so tremendously and she really needed additional help.
HAUGH: You mean Mount Prospect itself.
HUTCHINGS: And the library, and people wanted things. They were moving in. You know, the population in 1960 was 18,000, and in 1966 it was 30,000. So you see, we moved in at a time when the place had literally doubled itself, practically, in population, and that’s always hard on the library or on anything-on the village itself. It was growing so tremendously. So she said, “You know, I just have to have more help.” I said, “Thank you very much, but, no, I’m not going to get involved with the library because I’ve got these two gals I’ve got to get straightened out,” and all of this. She said, “Oh, please. We need it so desperately, and I know you’d be a big help.” So, it didn’t take very much, and I came home and told Roy and he said, “Oh, no. Not again.” So here we were, and I joined the staff on September 15. Then in January Mrs. Schlemmer retired and they were l looking for a new librarian and, of course, I was there. I said, “Oh, I really don’t want to do administration. I love reference. That’s what I like to do.” But the board asked me to, so I stayed and I was still the acting librarian until March of ’81.
HAUGH: Great. Who was the head of the library board when you came on, do you remember?
HUTCHINGS: It isn’t important. I think it was Mary Berg, perhaps. The board was outgoing and very interested in knowing what was going on. It was very easy to work with the board. In fact, there were two women that are very responsible and whose names should be part of the history of the library, as far as I know it-that is, from the ’60s on. Mrs. Schlemmer did a great job of keeping the library together from the time the women’s club established it in somebody’s house many, many years ago in the ’20s, I believe, and until 1942 [when] the library became tax supported. She stayed with it the entire time until I was there, and worked day and night and night and day and gave it all she could. She deserves a lot of credit. But when the library had grown to such an extent that it needed additional professional help, why, these two women who joined the board-Mary Berg and Mary Clark-went down to A.L.A., found out all about. ..
HAUGH: What’s A.L.A.?
HUTCHINGS: The American Library Association. ..to find out, what does a good board member do, and believe me, they did it. And they deserve a lot of credit. It was marvelous working with those two people and the rest of the members of the board at that time. I don’t know what else you need to know, because it’s been a turbulent sixteen years for me …
HAUGH: But mainly with the village, right.
HUTCHINGS: …but I wouldn’t have changed it for the world. All the time, there were differences among the two boards, financially, and misunderstandings concerning the growth of the library and the need for the growth of the library, both financially and professionally. It was to my advantage, and I’m very happy to say, that I was friendly with all members of all the boards throughout, and that was a difficult thing because there were very philosophical differences.
HAUGH: I remember the time somebody tried to put censorship in our library.
HUTCHINGS: Oh, my. That would make a very interesting thing; yes, it would. That came shortly after I was librarian, too. It was not one of the books I had purchased. Mrs. Schlemmer had purchased it, but I felt very strongly that I had to defend her right to have chosen it. As a matter of fact, it eventually ended up on the University of Illinois reading list for sociology. I’m not going to tell you the name of the book.
HAUGH: I know what it was, but I’m not going to say it either. Now tell me a little bit-when you came then, was the library in the place where the senior center is now, or did you moved into there? I can’t remember.
HUTCHINGS: No. The library was where [the senior center] is now. When we got there it was growing so tremendously; in fact, people came from Arlington Heights and all around to use the Mount Prospect library-they really did. We were in a growing situation, but the first thing I realized was that we had to move the children’s room from the downstairs upstairs before we could ever think in terms of expanding or getting a new library. The bad part of it was, there was no basement in that library-only in a very small part of it-so that it was not structurally able to withstand any more remodeling on the second floor, and there wasn’t any space to build around it because then there would be no parking.
HAUGH: Wasn’t there an idea of having a bookmobiles for a while?
HUTCHINGS: Yes. We did think about that, but that’s a very expensive operation, too, because you have to have the bookmobile, you have to have additional staff for that and insurance, and all kinds of problems with the bookmobile. The town is too spread out, really, for that and it was not feasible. The board looked at every alternative, and the only alternative that was really feasible was to expand into a new library. The first thing we did was expand upstairs, and that was very helpful. That enabled us to use the children’s room for a business section because when I first came to the library, the majority of our circulation was children’s books. We were located right next to the Central School, and so the majority of our usage was in the juvenile department. I felt we had to get more adults in there, so I bought heavily for the business community and they were very helpful also. The Rotary and the Kiwanis and the Lions Club; the Jaycees and the Women’s Club all gave us …
HAUGH: Did you get any money from some of the businesses?
HUTCHINGS: I just mentioned that they were very helpful and gave us money or expansion. And so, I think that really was the beginning of the real tremendous growth of circulation due to the business participation.
HAUGH: And there was a big changeover. And, of course, the location was great because you were right in the downtown area.
HUTCHINGS: We were right in the downtown area, which was excellent.
HAUGH: Sure, because people had to pretty much shop there until Randhurst opened, so there was a lot of people that had to go downtown.
HUTCHINGS: My first year in 1966 we had an exhibit at Randhurst and invited the secretary of state who is also the state library-at that time that was Mr. [Paul] Powell-and he came to our library. We had our first series of book reviews at that time and put in a copy machine. We had courtesy cards for teachers, and 2,900 kids enrolled in the summer reading program. We had our very first National Library Week celebration, a poster contest for the grade school children, an open house, and the Friends of the Library had a big book sale which yielded us $1,000 that year. And then right away, of course, because of the demand, the growth of the library, we extended the hours, and in ’67 we started to be open on Sundays. We also had large-type books. We were the first in the system to be open on Sundays, and we were the first in the system to have large-type books. We added a microfilm reader, a pamphlet [file]. We had junior volunteers, even. And then the Mount Prospect Historical Society had an open house for us-an appreciation-for the staff, for the Women’s Club, and we were very happy to have that in our honor. The Junior Women’s Club served Magnus Farm: for the first time we were able to do work for the shut-ins. And, of course, because our collection was so small, we immediately put in an American lending library; that is, where we were able to rent these books or best sellers and other books that we couldn’t buy at the time.
HAUGH: Now, is that the same or different from the interlibrary.
HUTCHINGS: Oh, no. That’s entirely different.
HAUGH: But you had that, too, didn’t you?
HUTCHINGS: When I first came here we did, and the books were processed in Oak Park. That didn’t seem reasonable to me, because if you needed a book and it was being processed in Oak Park, it took forever to get here. I stopped that immediately and did our own, because at that time we did have one professional and myself, and that one professional was Bertha A~~leb~ who was an excellent cataloger from the University of Wisconsin. So she and I cataloged all the books, and we were able to get them out as soon as we received them. If you wanted a book and it had not been processed, that didn’t stop us. We gave it to you anyway. So we did start to build up our circulation. We even had a computer lecturer introduced by Harper faculty. He came over and gave us a lecture on the computer.
HAUGH: Now, what year was that?
HUTCHINGS: That was 1969.
HAUGH: My heavens. Way ahead of the time.
HUTCHINGS: And in 1970 we were also the first library to circulate art prints. We charged $1.00 then-we’re a little but more lucrative now; you can have them for $8.00. And we also had cassettes and we were the first library to lend them. So in spite of the fact that we didn’t have a whole lot of money, we tried to stay up professionally with what was going on.
HAUGH: That was great; see, I was with the paper, if you remember, the Day Publications, in ’66 …
HUTCHINGS: I surely do.
HAUGH: …and one of the first pictures I had on the front page was of your open house. All these things bring other memories back, too.
HUTCHINGS: While I’m talking about it, I think I should indicate-and not because you’re here, because I’ve said it many, many times-that you, Dolores Haugh, have given so much to the community and we always felt if we were in any kind of problem or needed any kind of publicity, we would just call Dolores. You were an excellent friend of the library, and we appreciated it through the years.
HAUGH: Well. ..I don’t know if you know this, but I worked my way through high school in the library. I love library work anyway, and, of course, I’m like you-I get hooked on this research stuff. I still do.
HUTCHINGS: Right. It’s more fun-more fun than administration. However, we had wonderful people on the staff, wonderful people on board, and I must say I had a wonderful time and would not have traded it for anything. Eighteen happy, happy years. My husband was retiring and he said, “Hey, it’s time.” Thirty-eight years I had spent in libraries. They changed tremendously through the years, and I think I was there during the really, really fun time.
HAUGH: Just before all the computers and all the things-the technology took over, so to speak.
HUTCHINGS: Yes, although we did prepare ourselves. Before we moved to the new library, the women and the men on the staff did get a brief course from the C.L.S.I. people.
HAUGH: What’s C.L.S.I.?
HUTCHINGS: Well, let’s see-Cataloging Library Information System.
HAUGH: That’s okay. That sounds good.
HUTCHINGS: They were the only ones, of course, at that time that had the computerization of libraries, and we knew that this was the wave of the future so we’d better get with it, and we did and we learned about it. Of course, we did have computerization in our new library in ’76. I wrote the building program for that new building in 1976, but in 1975 during National Library Week a former president of the Women’s Club, Millie Heitman and I dug the hole for the new library.
HAUGH: Oh, that’s great.
HUTCHINGS: That was kind of fun.
HAUGH: Sure. The other thing I wanted to mention in regard to the library was not only your increase in circulation but when you first opened the building-the new building-you were criticized for not having enough books.
HUTCHINGS: Oh, absolutely.
HAUGH: Tell me a little bit about that, because the numbers went up.
HUTCHINGS: Ch, yes. The doubled in no time at all, and so our problem then was a lack of books. It’s just like moving from a very small bungalow into a large mansion, and we felt it was a mansion because we did have some room, finally, to spread out. I should have mentioned, too, that for a couple of years we operated out of a mobile unit in the back of the old library.
HAUGH: Because of space?
HUTCHINGS: The processing center was back there.
HAUGH: Ch, I never knew that.
HUTCHINGS: I had almost forgotten about that. You know, I’ve been retired for ten years, and a lot of things have happened and I just don’t recall. It’s kind of a long time ago.
HAUGH: Well, you know, one of the things I’m going to put in my article when I “do” you, is the fact that you came back to serve in the community again as president of the Mount Prospect Women’s Club. I want you to talk a little bit about that because I think that’s an important part of the history, too.
HUTCHINGS: Well, the Mount Prospect Women’s Club is philanthropic and social and educational, too. These women are really very dedicated, and we work hard on our luncheons and our other philanthropies in order to get the money to put back into the community. For instance, for scholarships we gave money to the police department, to the fire department, to the library, of course, and the library is very essential because we just never forget that it was founded by the women. In addition to our yearly contribution to the library, whenever any of our members die we always purchase books in their memory, and that’s a nice thing to do. I was also in the Friends of the Library for a couple of years.
HAUGH: Tell me a little about that. Do you remember when they started?
HUTCHINGS: Well, they had a Friends of the Library when I first came here in 1966. Somewhere along the line it kind of folded-around the ’70s, I think. But it has always been active, covertly. Today it is a very fine adjunct of the library, and has been successful with their book sales. Even when we moved to the new library, the second floor of the new library is now substantial enough to make a remodeling upstairs, and so we thought about that so that we wouldn’t get into that bind again. We brought in a lot of the old shelving from the old library upstairs so that the Friends could have a place to keep their books. That’s a luxury that probably no other library has because most Friends of the Library have to do it in somebody’s garage or basement or whatever.
HAUGH: Right. And it’s hard to sort and keep them in line, and so on.
HUTCHINGS: But as they need additional room, they can move upstairs. In fact, the administrative offices are already up there. I don’t anticipate a tremendous growth because the population had leveled off, if you’ll notice. From ’71 to ’75 it went from 35,000 to 48,000, and in 1976 it was pushing 50,000. Well, today-right this minute, practically-it is hardly more than 53,000.
HAUGH: That’s right.
HUTCHINGS: And so it has leveled off, and there really isn’t anyplace else to go. So, I think one of the nice things, too, about living in Mount Prospect is you know it isn’t going to grow that way too much anymore.
HAUGH: The only way to now is up, really, because your land is gone.
HUTCHINGS: That’s right, and we don’t want to go up as far as they want-a lot of people don’t. We want to keep this nice community the way it is.
HAUGH: That’s right, sure. Getting back a little bit to the downtown area again, do you remember if there were any factories or anything down in there?
HUTCHINGS: No, I don’t remember, but you asked earlier about stores and now it comes back to me. There was a wonderful time store across the. ..
HAUGH: Oh, Ben Franklin, wasn’t it?
HAUGH: Now, that was on Main Street.
HUTCHINGS: Out on Prospect Road across the. ..
HAUGH: Oh, okay, near Keefer’s, wasn’t it?
HUTCHINGS: I think on the other side. I think it was close to Keefer’s, perhaps on the other side of Main. I don’t know exactly, but I do remember that that was a wonderful store.
HAUGH: But it was on Prospect Avenue, though, wasn’t it?
HUTCHINGS: Yes, it was on Prospect Avenue.
HAUGH: I thought that they were at one time on Main Street over by the bakery. Now, was the library involved in the Fourth of July parades and things like that?
HUTCHINGS: Yes, and particularly in 1975. I’m glad you asked that-that’s kind of fun. I remember that we had a float in the July 4th parade, and it was called “Ben and Me”-Ben Franklin and me-and the reason we had it that particular time was that. ..do you know that on April 13 Jefferson was born, and in 1943 on that same date-the bicentennial of his birth-the library became tax supported-the first library became tax supported. So, we thought that was very good.
HAUGH: A nice, appropriate thing.
HUTCHINGS: We didn’t have too many through the years. We did have one other one that was quite good, but it was a little bit hard to get the time and the money to participate, and you really do need both.
HAUGH: For sure. We mentioned about having the Historical Society membership drive, but I know that the library has always been a good place to go to for history.
HUTCHINGS: Oh, yes.
HAUGH: You had a history file there, didn’t you?
HUTCHINGS: Well, when I first came to the library I wanted to know the history of the place, and so Mabel Abenheimer who had worked there for years did write down everything, and we do have it as near as we could determine. It should be in the history file.
HAUGH: That’s the history of the library, but what I’m talking about is the history of the village, because you had a lot of things in there, too, didn’t you, in your file?
HUTCHINGS: Well, as near as we could determine what had happened, and she was instrumental in helping us with that. So, we do have a history file; at least I’m quite sure we still do.
HAUGH: Sure, and I know you’ve always been supportive of the Historical Society, too.
HUTCHINGS: Oh, absolutely. Well, that’s very important because the Historical Society is the root of your town. I mean, you have to have a historical society, and I’m so happy that you are the president of it because if anybody really loves and radiates Mount Prospect, it’s you.
HAUGH: Well, thank you. You don’t have to put that in the script, by the way.
HUTCHINGS: It goes in the script. It better be in the script. It should be in the script-it is now. I mean, we’re talking objectively. We know that once we’re gone, we’re gone. We’re not worried about that either, but while you’re here there’s nothing wrong at all in accepting what is true, and it is true.
HAUGH: Thank you.
HUTCHINGS: There are many, many people. I’m not just saying that.
HAUGH: Well, I’ve always loved this town.
HUTCHINGS: And it shows.
HAUGH: It’s been my hometown for a long time. There’s so many times where there are things that are needed and nobody takes up the windmill fighting. You’ve got to have somebody that picks up the lance once in a while and goes for it.
HUTCHINGS: Yes, and you have dedicated yourself to that.
HAUGH: Well, one of the other questions I have here is, what is one of the fondest memories you have of the early Mount Prospect when you first came?
HUTCHINGS: That’s a hard one.
HAUGH: I know it is. What are some of the best memories you had of, say, the work that you did with the village? HUTCHINGS: Well, it was wonderful to see the library grow, and people really, really liking the library and wanted it to grow. It was a little bit unfortunate that we didn’t have a referendum, in retrospect, because I think the time was right and I think people would have voted yes. I really do, because a survey was made at the library and sixty-three percent of the population did want it and wanted it on referendum. However, I’ve never been involved in politics-I don’t understand politics; it’s one of the necessary evils-and the way it turned out it’s been a real blessing for the town because the senior center is a thriving club and a wonderful asset to the community. Also, the library itself-of course, in my estimation, the best thing that ever happened was the new library because we now had a wonderful space in which to grow, and we had a beautiful facility; modern, computerized. As I entioned earlier, I am of the old school, and I enjoyed being a librarian very, very much all my years. Now it’s time for the computer age, and I’m glad that we are a part of it.
HAUGH: I suppose going back again to the comparison of the downtown as it is today, you see as all of us do a tremendous change in the downtown. I don’t know if it’s for the better or not, but. ..
HUTCHINGS: Well, it certainly looks lovely, and I think the Garden Club and other clubs are taking care of the downtown area by the station-it looks so pretty.
HAUGH: I think it’s the village that’s doing that.
HUTCHINGS: The village is doing it.
HAUGH: Yes, I think so.
HUTCHINGS: Well, our village-I would like to say something for our village, because I think our public works has done a fantastic job. Our snow removal is just great. They have always been very, very helpful, and it’s just a wonderful place to live, in Mount Prospect. You can call the village hall and ask for help, and you get it. Harold Fields has done a marvelous job down there, too, and I think we really should be happy to be able to call up and know these people, and that’s what’s wonderful about the town. We still can call people by name, and that means a lot to me.
HAUGH: It keeps the hometown feeling, even though we are 53,000, right?
HUTCHINGS: That’s right.
HAUGH: Now, the last question I have is, is there anyone thing that you would want the children to remember about the history of their hometown?
HUTCHINGS: Well, I believe, the big library.
HAUGH: I think the library, of course. What else? HUTCHINGS: Well, we have wonderful churches in Mount Prospect. ..to read and they have intercommunication with their peers, and also learn something about discipline in the children’s room and, of course, they are exposed to so many wonderful things that a lot of people in a lot of communities still don’t have. Mount Prospect has everything; we really do. It’s fine, and I don’t know what special thing they would remember. They just should remember that they are born and love Mount Prospect, and when they get married they should come back and live here again. HAUGH: There you’ve got it. We’ll keep this town agoin’ here. You know, I had one more question that popped in my head. Weren’t you there when they started the zebra stripes [bar coding on library materials]?
HUTCHINGS: Oh, absolutely. We did all that in the old library before we ever came into the new library.
HAUGH: I couldn’t remember when that started.
HUTCHINGS: Oh yes, sure. That was part of the learning process for the computer, and the books all had the zebras put on because otherwise, you see, when we opened we were computerized so we had to have it for the light pen. Everything was ready to go when we went into the new library.
HAUGH: That’s great. Well, I know, because I use the library myself so much, when these different things kind of happened, but I couldn’t remember that. But I remember now, it was in the old library when we had the zebra stripes.
HUTCHINGS: There is only one regret, and that is that we have dispensed with the card catalog. I think that there are many,many, many people who still don’t know how to use the terminals. The card catalog, of course, is almost out of date now and people are starting to do that, but it still is a very wonderful-maybe historic-thing that we should hang on to, because a lot of libraries have not dispensed with their card catalogs. It makes it a lot easier for the person because when you’re using the computer you have to know the exact title. When you’re flipping through the cards, you might stumble on it. I know that many, many people say they wish they still had the card catalog, but I guess that’s progress.
HAUGH: I guess it is, whether we want it or not sometimes. Well listen, thanks again, Mary Jo, for your time and also for all the things that you have given to the community over and above the professionalism which you have always extended to everybody, but also I feel that the work that you’ve done on a volunteer basis with the Women’s Club has brought that up to a new height. Last year you won how many. ..?
HUTCHINGS: We won seventeen.
HAUGH: Seventeen awards, and that’s in your different departments.
HUTCHINGS: And two on the state level.
HAUGH: And then this year you had another large number.
HUTCHINGS: We had another two at the state this year.
HAUGH: And eleven, was it, besides that?
HAUGH: Boy, when you look back on your two years as president, you know that there was a lot of good works done. HUTCHINGS: Well, it’s because people in Mount Prospect are wonderfully gracious and they’re willing to work. I like people that will work. Ask any of myoId staff.
HAUGH: Yes, right. Well, listen, thanks ever so much again.
HUTCHINGS: Well, it was wonderful. I enjoyed it in a way, and yet I feel very unprepared because having been retired for ten years I hope some of these things I’ve said were correct.
HAUGH: They will be fine. Don’t worry about that.
HUTCHINGS: But at any rate, it’s been fun.
HAUGH: Well again, thanks. We’ll be working together, I’m sure, in the future.
HUTCHINGS: I will look forward to that.