There aren't a lot of good sources out there to give home buyers a useful sense of the characteristics of different suburban communities. Mere statistics tell the story to some extent, but are no substitute for a reporter with a keen ear for a community's vibe.
The Chicago Tribune publishes the best collection of community write-ups that I've found online. It's currently featuring Lyons, a small western suburb just 11 miles from downtown Chicago. As always, the story is worth a read.
There are a few things the Tribune doesn't tell you that you might want to know when considering a move to Lyons. If you have children, for starters, you'd want to know that Lyons School District 103 spent $9,794 per student in the 2009-10 school year, compared to a statewide average of $11,278 among similarly sized districts. Teacher pay sharply lags statewide averages.
Student achievement scores are in the mid-range among Illinois' generally lackluster schools. The majority of the students in Lyons SD 103 are Hispanic, many with limited English proficiency. In some of the elementary schools more than 2/3 of the students come from low-income households.
Chime in if you know something about Lyons that would be helpful to a home buyer considering the community.