In the wake of the disastrous 1958 Galesburg Public Library fire, which claimed the building built at the turn of the century with $50,000 from Andrew Carnegie, the library board struggled to replace what had been lost, scraping together just enough funds to erect a new structure in 1961. “They built what they considered to be a temporary building,” said Noelle Thompson, the library’s director.
Today, the end of the long road to a modern, thoughtfully planned, and permanent Galesburg Public Library is in sight. After renewing the search for funding in 2006, selecting a location in 2010, and securing a $15.3 million grant from the state of Illinois in 2021, the library has plans to open a brand-new building in 2023.
For that to happen, though, the Galesburg Public Library Foundation must finish its $3.75 million “Building a Library, Connecting a Community” campaign. With just under $1 million still to go, Galesburg Community Foundation recently announced a match grant challenge: for every $2 donated through September 30, 2022, the Community Foundation will donate an additional $1, up to $350,000, giving the Library Foundation an opportunity to raise a total of $1,050,000. To date, the challenge has resulted in over $150,000. All gifts through the match challenge will be recognized in the Community Room.
“We’re proud to provide this tool—and these resources—to help bring the entire community together around a project that will benefit everyone,” said Joshua Gibb, the Community Foundation’s president and CEO. “Just as philanthropy helped build the library we lost over 60 years ago, philanthropy is building a new library today.”
The matching dollars are possible thanks to the Community Foundation’s Community Impact Fund, which is used by the Community Foundation’s Board of Directors to make grants throughout the region that promote strong and healthy communities.
Cheryl McKinnon and her husband, Tom, have already stepped up to contribute to the match challenge through their donor-advised fund at the Community Foundation. “I believed the match was the best way for my donation to go the furthest, and I hope it inspires other residents in the community to give, too,” said McKinnon. “I’m so glad there have been people with the perseverance to see the project through to this point. Now it’s up to us to do our part.”
A retired first- and second-grade teacher who regularly volunteers at the Community Foundation’s Community Treasures thrift store, Cheryl McKinnon is particularly excited to see more space designated for children and young adults, as well as investments in state-of-the-art technology and a reconceived Community Room, which will be funded directly by the dollars raised through the Community Foundation match opportunity. Designed to be accessible even when the library is closed, the 3,600–square-foot Community Room will provide a much-needed space for in-person and virtual gatherings, speakers and presentations, cultural celebrations, and more.
“The new library will have something for all age groups,” McKinnon said. “You never outgrow learning.”
According to Heather Sipes, executive director of the Galesburg Public Library Foundation, the facility will serve the community in new ways. A skills lab, for instance, will help residents reach their personal and professional goals, while a technology lab will help bridge the digital divide, providing access to both the internet and the latest devices.
“This is a catalyst for other exciting things happening in Knox County,” said Sipes.
Now that the construction crew has begun preparing the new site at the corner of West Main and South Academy Streets, excitement—and support—among residents is mounting. “Anything you can give is going to help the library get there,” McKinnon said. “It doesn’t have to be a large donation.”
Alumni of Galesburg schools who have moved away are welcome to give, too. “If you no longer live here, donating is a great way to honor a teacher, a grandparent, or anyone else who loved the library and the community,” said Sipes. With the help of members from several class years, she added, the campaign is planning special outreach efforts to alumni over the next few months.
“This is a legacy,” said Thompson. “The library will stand forever as a representation of this point in time and all the people who are here now, who have taken care of each other during these last rough years. For generations to come, this whole project will be a reminder of this community’s values.”
To learn more about the match challenge and consider a gift of your own, click here.