While Downers Grove resident Brooks Ruyle thinks every day is a good day to celebrate libraries, he’s happy there is at least one week a year that invites the community to join in.
The president of the Downers Grove Public Library Foundation hopes to see that happen during National Library Week, which runs through April 9.
“For the foundation, it’s one week of the year we can really focus our efforts on getting the word out on the great things the library does and give those in the community a chance to show their appreciation for everything the library offers,” Ruyle said. “It’s exceptional.”
Some of those offerings are made possible because of the foundation’s work to secure financial donations. A separate nonprofit from the library, the foundation’s mission is to fund “extraordinary gifts, beyond taxpayer support, to inspire and engage ideas and strengthen the library as a cornerstone in our community.”
“We’re usually guided by library staff on what the library’s needs are and the objectives of their strategic plan,” Ruyle said.
Last year, for instance, donations from library supporters to the foundation helped fund stipends for two social worker internship positions.
The impetus for establishing a social worker program came after library staff observed many individuals in the community seeking help connecting to social services or identifying which services they could use, Adult and Teen Services Manager Lizzie Matkowski said.
“At the same time, information on the positive outcomes seen at other libraries that had hired social workers or brought on interns was coming out in articles and conferences, which gave us confidence to establish an internship program here,” she said.
“As a result, DGPL started a social work internship program in early 2020 in partnership with Aurora University with the purpose of connecting community members with much-needed resources for social services, strengthening partnerships with local organizations and providing support and training to staff on social service related questions.”
Matkowski said the program has been one facet of the library’s charge to provide equal access to all and engage and evolve with the community.
Work performed by the interns has included creating a comprehensive social services resource guide, multiple guides for single-issue resources such as housing and food and a social services page for the library’s website, along with working directly with patrons to connect them to services, she said.
The interns are working with the library’s Public Relations Manager Cindy Khatri and other staff to maintain the Cupboard, the institution’s pantry of nonperishable food and toiletry items for those who are housing or food insecure.
“A project which has had probably the broadest impact of all their work so far and which they work to maintain and keep stocked,” Matkowski said.
Ruyle said library services such as the social worker internship program “are tremendously helpful to our community as a whole.”
“We’re thrilled to be able to fund this important program with a gift from the foundation, which is made possible by all of our donors,” he said.
Other undertakings by the foundation in the past few years have included providing funding for the Satellite Stacks, which are deposit collections in all Downers Grove senior living centers with large-print and audio materials reaching more than 1,200 seniors in the community; purchasing additional ebook and audiobook titles while the building was closed to the public during the pandemic; and sourcing pairs of EnChroma glasses to assist patrons who experience color blindness.
In honor of National Library Week, the community is invited to help continue the foundation’s mission while also supporting two downtown Downers Grove businesses.
The Foxtail, 5237 Main St., is donating 20% of all proceeds from lunch, dinner and takeout orders on Wednesday and Thursday of National Library Week for diners who mention they are “Here for the Library.”
Pierce Tavern, which is at 5135 Main St. in the original location of the Downers Grove Public Library 130 years ago, will donate $1 from the sale of every “The Librarian” craft cocktail during National Library Week to the Downers Grove Public Library Foundation.
Donations also can be made to the foundation’s website, www.dgplfoundation.org.