The beginning of the Arlington Heights Memorial Library is traced to a meeting in the home of Mrs. Amos Walker, wife of a school principal. Inspired by the Chautauqua movement she and some of her friends were determined to bring a touch of culture to the community then named Dunton. They organized a "ladies' reading circle" and began collecting books. The reading circle eventually became the Arlington Heights Woman's Club, and a small collection of books would grow into a public library.
The Arlington Heights Woman's Club determined that a public library should be established and opened one in the home of Miss Effie and Miss Lucy Shepard at 310 N. Dunton Avenue. This is only a few hundred feet from the present site of the library. The collection initially contained only 150 books. Miss Effie and Miss Lucy welcomed the public to their home two days a week for 15 years.
The library was moved from the home of Miss Effie and Miss Lucy Shepard to a small room in the school building on St. James Street, where it remained for 18 years.
An election finally made the library a true public library, and the Arlington Heights Woman's Club turned over a collection of 1,600 volumes and $1,800 in cash to furnish library quarters in the Municipal Building.
An 8,000-square-foot building was built solely for library purposes at 112 N. Belmont Avenue. The library was dedicated to the memory of the service men and women of Arlington Heights and has been known as the "Memorial Library" ever since. Rapid growth of the village made this building obsolete far sooner than anyone anticipated. Ultimately, more than 4,500 of the library's 58,357 volumes had to be stored elsewhere because there was no room for them in the library itself.
In June, a new library was built at 500 N. Dunton Avenue with a federal grant and funds from a bond issue. The building was 40,000 square feet and was designed to hold 123,000 books. In subsequent years, citizens twice approved bonds to purchase books to meet the needs of the rapidly growing community.
The first bookmobile went into service on July 10. Executive Director Frank Dempsey brought the idea from Berkley, California, where he had established a bookmobile in the 1960s. It was a used 1966 bookmobile purchased from a library in Florida and was replaced with a new bookmobile in 1975.
The library was expanded to 76,000 square feet. Library services and collections continued to expand throughout the 1980s ultimately leading to a need for more space to meet the rising demand.
The new Park Place Senior Center opened, and the library partnered with the Village and the Arlington Heights Park District to offer services for seniors. In 1998, the library’s partnership expanded with the new Arlington Heights Senior Center which included a computer lab in addition to a reading room and programs for seniors
Voters gave their approval for $8.9 million to build another 56,000 square-foot addition and to renovate the original facility. The two-story addition was completed in 1994, bringing the total space of the library to 132,000 square feet.
The Dunton Avenue entrance got a much-needed renovation bringing it into ADA compliance and adding a new façade and vending café.
Library Journal gives the library its highest rating – five stars – in a ranking of over 7,100 libraries across the country. Only 1 percent of the nation's libraries received the five-star rating, which was based on the annual number of library visits, circulation, program attendance and public internet computer use.
Kids’ World was renovated and refurbished. The project included carpet replacement, relocating the Kids’ World Desk, expanding and moving the preschool area, creating an I Can Read area, and rearranging the collection. It was accomplished without a tax levy increase using grant monies and general library funds.
The library was voted the Business of the Year by the members of the Arlington Heights Chamber of Commerce in recognition of the library’s service to businesses.
In October 2012, the library began a renovation and reorganization project designed to meet the changing needs of the community. Spaces were redesigned to include an expanded popular materials area, more small conference rooms, an expanded teen area and an improved training center with more computer and technology classes. The $2.8 million renovation was funded by money saved over a period of years so again, no tax levy increase was needed.