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Chicago Heights man turns page after 50-plus years on library board

Robert Booth who was head Chicago Heights Public Library board for 50 years. poses library Chicago Heights IL Tuesday February

Robert Booth, who was the head of the Chicago Heights Public Library board for 50 years., poses at the library in Chicago Heights, IL on Tuesday February 19, 2013. He retired from the position in November of 2012. | Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: April 15, 2013 6:02AM



Old age has a way of creeping up on you. So says Robert Booth, who sat on the Chicago Heights Public Library Board for more than 50 years before leaving in November.

“It’s hard to know how the years go by so quickly,” Booth said.

Booth, 94, is a longtime resident of the city. His family moved there when he was 4, and he attended the local schools, graduating in 1935 from Bloom High School, where he was editor of the school newspaper.

After graduation, he attended the University of Illinois. He graduated in 1939, then earned his law degree from the school in 1941.

Booth served in the Air Force from 1942 through 1945, stationed mostly in Long Island, N.Y. When he finished his duty, he worked for the International Harvester Co. as lead of the law department. Booth said he would fly to Germany, France, Spain, Sweden and Russia to do business.

He said serving on the library’s board was an attractive idea because his family has a long history of working for libraries. He also is a voracious reader, reading four or five mystery novels a week.

Booth was appointed to the city’s library board in 1960 and named its president five years later. At the time, the library was located off Halsted Street near the police department.

“The old collection would bounce up and down when the trains would go by,” Booth said.

Despite the demands of his job and the globetrotting it required, Booth said he missed very few meetings in his long tenure.

“I arranged my time so I could go to my board meetings,” Booth said. “It’s a good thing. The airlines weren’t so loaded then.”

Ground was broken at the site of the new library in 1971 and it was finished in 1972. He said that, in the last decade, the library has made efforts to enter “the digital age,” as well as beef up security around the building, a popular destination among the city’s homeless.

“It’s a sign of the times,” Booth said. “One of our big interests is the security of our patrons.”

Booth retired from his job in 1983 but remained on the library board. He is also a member of the Rotary Club of Chicago Heights, the First Presbyterian Church of Chicago Heights, and the former president of the Harold Colbert Jones Memorial Community Center Board.

In November, Booth left his position on the board, and City Clerk Lori Wilcox was appointed as the board’s new president.

Booth said being recognized for his service by the city council would be a bittersweet moment.

“It’s nice to be recognized, and difficult to think you’re not going to be doing it anymore,” he said.



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