Donor kicks off River Forest library redo

Children's Room undergoes 'fantastic makeover'

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By Maria Maxham

Staff Reporter

The Children's Room recently underwent renovation, thanks to the River Forest Public Library Foundation and a very generous anonymous donor. 

Elan Long, director of the foundation, said the organization started in 2015 with the goal of raising funds for projects outside the library's regular budget. In 2018, Long said, the foundation received a "major commitment" from an anonymous River Forest family.

"They committed to donate $30,000 a year for five years," said Long. "The foundation identified a project — the Children's Room — that was far down the list of pressing priorities included in the regular library budget."

The goal, said Long, was to raise $65,000 total for the project. With the $30,000 already donated, they needed to bring in another $35,000. Over the summer of 2019, the foundation started a big push to reach their goal, collecting donations from individuals and organizations. 

"There was a Daisy Troop that made a donation from their cookie money," said Long. "A Cub Scout group made a donation too." By the end of the summer, with individual donations that ranged from $10 all the way up to the original $30,000 contribution, they had raised the money they needed.

"People really value the library," said Long. "Seventy percent of residents have library cards. What other entity reaches so many people of so many different ages?"

The renovation involved replacing old, heavy shelving that dated back to 1953 with new and more easily accessible book displays, putting in new carpeting, covering the walls in fresh paint, and a new service desk. The goal was to make the Children's Room more welcoming and enhance the functionality and ADA compliance of the space.

Amy Grossman, Children's Services manager, said she's thrilled with the redone Children's Room. 

"It was amazing to re-envision the space," said Grossman. "When the kids came in after we reopened following renovation, they were wide-eyed and so excited. It was great to see that. It made all the hard work worth it." She added that the new space is much more functional.

"It was a fantastic make-over," Grossman said.

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