Local History

Local History Construction Project: Follow us on Twitter @DPLHistory or on Facebook for updates!

Construction began on October 27th.  The new room officially opens to the public on Saturday, June 13, 2015.

Though collections will start moving to their new location during the month of May, Local History is temporarily housed Penny Severns Quiet Study Room (old computer lab). 

We will only have access to some of the collection during construction.  The rest will be sealed up in the current Local History Room for protection.  We will have no access to the current Local History Room once it is sealed.  Here is a list of what will be available during this time (this list could be added to or subtracted from at any time):

  • Yearbooks
  • City Directories and phone books
  • Obituary indexes
  • Cemetery indexes
  • Vertical files
  • Decatur/Macon County history books

Most of the microfilm collection will be available to the public during construction.  As of May 7, 2015, all of the microfilm machines are back on the floor.

Please take a look at our new policies for the Shilling Local History Room:
Local History Collection Policy
Shilling Local History Room Use of Room Policy

Listed below are some of the great resources found in the Shilling Local History Room:

  • Past Local Newspapers on microfilm
  • Cemetery Listings for Macon County
  • Obituary Indexes for the Decatur Daily Review (Herald and Review): 1879-2013
  • Local Yearbooks
  • City/County Histories
  • Annual Reports of Businesses
  • Special Interest  Artifacts
  • City Directories: 1871-1872, 1881, 1884, 1889, 1896-1897, 1899, 1901, 1903-1906, 1909-1912, 1915, 1919-1926, 1928-1933, 1935-1942, 1944-1964, 1966-2003, 2005-2013
  • Special Interest Indexes
  • Maps and Zoning Information
  • Photographs
    • The library is currently working to get its extensive photograph collection online.  In the meantime, if you would like to know if we have a certain photograph, please contact us.
    • If you are interested in using an image in a publication, we ask that you contact us and fill out our Reproduction agreement.

Finding Aids: content lists and helpful information for collections
Brink Collection finding aid
Hibbs Personal Papers finding aid
Jane Hamand Correspondence Collection finding aid

Digitized Materials:
From Land, Sea and Test Tube: Story of Archers-Daniels-Midland Co. by Marion E. Cross (1957) (Courtesy of ADM)

1906 Decatur city directory – pg. 1-50, pg. 51-100, pg. 101-150, pg. 151-175, pg. 176-200, pg. 201-250, pg. 251-300, pg. 301-350, pg. 351-400, pg. 401-450, pg. 451-500, pg. 501-550, pg. 551-600, pg. 601-650, pg. 651-700, pg. 701-750, pg. 751-800, pg. 801-850, pg. 851-900, pg. 901-920

Classified Catalogue of the Free Public Library of Decatur, Illinois (1884) – Google Book courtesy of UIUC Library

Catalogue of the Free Public Library of Decatur, Illinois (1894) – Google Book courtesy of UIUC Library

Genealogical Databases:

The  online databases Ancestry.com – Library Edition and HeritageQuest (HeritageQuest @ Home) are available for free to all users in the library.  Heritage Quest is also available at home with a valid DPL library card.  Ancestry.com Library Edition is only available on-site, but the library does offer 4 database-only computers on the first floor that can be used for 2 hours a day.  To access the library’s databases, please click on the Database tab at the top of the screen.  The databases are listed in alphabetical order.


The Shilling Local History Room is open to the public for research 30 hours a week (please see the hours of operation listed below).  The room is staffed primarily by volunteers, so calling ahead is highly recommended because the hours cannot always be guaranteed.    Appointments are always welcome, though not necessary.  If you wish to make an appointment, please contact us at least 48 hours in advance to give the staff time to prepare for your arrival.

Making Requests: If you are unable to visit in person, you can make requests for information by mail, email, or phone.  Decatur Public Library does charge for requests. Payment can be made by check or money order only (made payable to Decatur Public Library).  There is no charge if the requested information cannot be found.  The fee is the same whether the material is sent by email or mail.  Please see the Local History Fee Schedule for current prices.  All prices are subject to change.

Photocopying and Scanning: Almost all the materials in the Local History Room can be photocopied or scanned except for materials that have copyright restrictions or are too fragile.  To ensure the safety of the material and the quality of the photocopy or scan, only the staff and volunteers are allowed to use the equipment.  Please ask a volunteer to make a copy for you.  Please bring a flash drive if you would like an item scanned for you. The charge for photocopying is $.15/page for black and white, and $.50 for archival paper (available upon request).  We cannot make colored copies.  There is no charge for scanning an item on-site.

Microfilm and Microfiche: The library has 5 microfilm scanners that are available to visitors when the library is open.  4 of these machines are capable of reading microfiche as well.  The oldest machine (Canon 300) is $.25/page, while the 4 newer machines are $.15/page.  For a list of the library’s holdings of newspapers on microfilm, see the list of resources above. Call (217)421-9766 or e-mail localhistory@decaturlibrary.org for more information.

Hours of Operation:
Monday: 10:00-5:00 (5-7 by appointment only)
Tuesday: 10:00-5:00 (4:00-7:00 by appointment)
Wednesday: 10:00-5:00 (5:00-7:00 by appointment)
Thursday: 10:00-5:00 (5:00-7:00 by appointment)
Friday: 10:00-5:00
Saturday: 10:00-12:00, 1:00-3:00pm
Sunday: Closed

*Remember that these hours are subject to change at the last minute as the room is mainly staffed by volunteers.  Please call ahead!*

Contact Information:

Shilling Local History Room

Decatur Public Library

130 N. Franklin St.

Decatur, IL 62523

Phone: (217)421-9766

E-mail: localhistory@decaturlibrary.org

  Links for Researchers:
Decatur Genealogical Society & Library – Great place for in-depth genealogical research!
Macon County Historical Society and Museum – a great place to see artifacts from Macon County’s history!  Newly remodeled too!
FamilySearch – Free family history site.  A good place to start, but make sure to check out your local genealogical society for more in-depth information.
FindAGrave – Looking for that relative’s grave?  Don’t know where they are buried?  Search here.  It’s free!