The Downers Grove Public Library Foundation recently hosted a reception honoring donors who have contributed bricks to the new section of the Library Garden Walk. Invitations were sent to donors to the original walk that opened as part of our building renovation and expansion project, as well as to recent donors. Also honored was the Downers Grove Junior Woman’s Club who donated two benches for the Walk, in honor of the 50th anniversary of the club.
When I looked at the crowd that came to hear a brief welcoming speech from Kathy DiCola, president of the Foundation, listen to the steel drummer, eat ice cream, and most importantly to share the fun of seeing one’s brick in the Garden Walk, I couldn’t help but think back to the planning of the original Garden Walk in 1999.
At that time we loved the idea of a walk with donor bricks that would give residents a chance to literally become part of the library building project. We hoped to raise about $17,000 to fund the decorations for the entrance to the new Junior Room, and maybe allow us to build the Mouse House that our architect had designed as a possible feature for the picture book area. At the same time, we also wondered if anybody in Downers Grove would really pay money to put their name on a library brick.
Downers Grove folks love their community and are strong supporters of the library. But they are also tend to be self-effacing types, who are more interested in getting things done than in putting their name on stuff. Turns out residents mostly didn’t put their own names on the bricks. However they did take to the project with great enthusiasm! Bricks were donated to honor a favorite teacher, to recognize a favorite book, or to memorialize a deceased relative. We even have at least one brick in memory of a beloved pet.
We have been delighted to find that Garden Walk bricks have become a tradition in some families, who continue to donate bricks to mark family milestones. This winter a proud grandparent ordered a brick to honor a new grandchild, then called back a few days later to ask us to hold the order. Another grandchild was due in the spring and they wanted to add that child’s name to the brick when he or she was born.
I mentioned that our original goal was for decorations for the new Junior Room. When they heard about the campaign, the Junior Woman’s Club stepped in and donated the full cost of decorating the Mouse House, so we thought there really was a chance that we might raise the rest of the money for the mural at the entrance to the children’s department. In fact, bricks were donated like crazy over the first winter and we raised enough to decorate the Junior Room, and also purchase the hanging sculpture in the Curtiss Street atrium as well as other artwork for the library.
During the first ten years of the Garden Walk, well over $100,000 has been donated, with the money earmarked for art work for the library. The art collection has continued to grow and we now have an interesting variety of art displayed around the building. We look forward to the opportunities for expanding our art collection that will be provided by the donations to the expanded Garden Walk.