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‘Nothing happens unless first we dream:’ Galesburg breaks ground on new library

 Library and public officials gathered for a groundbreaking ceremony on April 7 at the site of Galesburg's future public library.
Jane Carlson
Tri States Public Radio
Library and public officials gathered for a groundbreaking ceremony on April 7 at the site of Galesburg's future public library.

“April is the cruelest month.”

So goes a line of verse by T.S. Eliot.

And as wind whipped through white tents and rain spat from a gray sky on a brutally cold afternoon at the site of Galesburg’s future public library, that was not the only poetry on the tips of gatherers’ tongues.

“If we open our ears and point them to the east, we can hear Mr. Sandburg telling us, ‘Nothing happens unless first we dream,’” said Galesburg Mayor Peter Schwartzman.

Library and public officials and community members gathered on Thursday, April 7 for a groundbreaking ceremony.

The new, $20 million public library will be nearly 70,000 square feet and take up an entire block of West Main Street.

It’s replacing what was meant to be a temporary library on East Simmons Street after the city’s original Carnegie Library was destroyed in a fire more than fifty years ago.

Stuart Allison, president of the library foundation board, said the new library is the result of many years of dreaming, planning, and fundraising.

“The great Argentinian writer, Jorge Luis Borges, said ‘I have always imagined that paradise will be a kind of library,’” Allison said. “With your help, we will soon see that paradise realized here in Galesburg.”

Secretary of State Jesse White was scheduled to speak at the groundbreaking ceremony, but had a scheduling conflict.

Illinois State Library Director Greg McCormick delivered remarks to the crowd instead.

McCormick praised library officials’ doggedness over the years in securing the $15 million state library grant that’s making the project possible.

The library first applied for the grant a decade ago, but the state’s funding ran out, McCormick said.

Perhaps no one’s words better captured the spirit of the day than Galesburg’s Anthony Law, who hosted the ceremony.

Law said when it comes to history, there are people who read about it, there are people who are told about it, and there are people who are a part of it.

“You are a part of history, bigger than Galesburg. That’s a wonderful thing to be a part of, isn’t it? A diamond is forming right behind you. When this is done, it’s going to change who we are, forever. And that is how history is made,” Law said.

Construction on the new library is expected to be complete in 2023.

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Copyright 2022 Tri States Public Radio. To see more, visit Tri States Public Radio.

Jane Carlson