When you walk into a library, do you ever look at the names on the plaques outside meeting rooms or affixed near artwork and wonder who the people were?
Well, for as little as $15, your name -- or the name of a friend or relative -- could be on just such a plaque at the Cook Memorial Public Library District facilities in Libertyville or Vernon Hills.
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As part of a fundraising effort that's getting an extra push this holiday season, district officials are selling naming rights to trees, equipment, shelves, study rooms and even a planned reading garden.
"It's a wonderful way to acknowledge somebody who loves the library," said Cook Memorial board member Mary Ann Phillips, who serves on a fundraising committee. "And it's a perfect gift to give to someone who has everything."
Selling the naming rights for rooms, bricks and other features isn't new for libraries.
Bricks outside the main entrance of Mundelein's Fremont Public Library have displayed donors' names since the facility opened on Midlothian Road in 2001.
And just last week, officials with the Warren-Newport Public Library in Gurnee accepted a $10,000 donation in exchange for the naming rights for two study rooms. The same donor also gave $10,000 to expand a collection of large-print materials, library spokeswoman Janice Marsh said.
"Libraries have always been dependent upon gifts," said Robert Doyle, executive director of the Illinois Library Association. "You'll find many libraries across the state that are named after an individual who has given money."
That's how the Cook Memorial Public Library District got its name.
When Libertyville politician and contractor Ansel B. Cook died in 1898, his will specified a library be built on his land. Cook's house and property were donated to the village in 1920 after his wife died, and the library took Cook's name when it opened in 1921.
The current fundraising effort dates back to 2009 and the start of the construction project that led to the Aspen Drive Library being built in Vernon Hills and the Cook Park Library being renovated and expanded in Libertyville.
Between February 2009 and this past September, the program raised $26,541, said Gabriella Pantle, the district's public relations coordinator. No fundraising goal has been set.
Both libraries benefit from the donations. Gifts go to a special Cook Memorial trust fund, not the district's general operating budget.
Officials will accept any amount as a gift, but sponsorships begin at $15. For that sum, a children's book will be purchased.
• Flowers for a planned butterfly garden at the Aspen Drive Library are available for $50 donations.
• Shelves for books or other materials can be sponsored for $1,000 donations.
• A small-group study room can be sponsored for $5,000.
• Sponsorship of a planned mural at the Cook Park Library is available for $10,000.
• Two young-adult rooms can be sponsored for $15,000 each.
The most expensive item on the list is the sponsorship of a planned reading garden at the Aspen Drive Library. The outdoor, enclosed space will include performance space and seating areas -- and you can name the spot for $200,000.
Other sponsorship opportunities exist, and a full list is available at cooklib.org.
"What we're trying to do is (let) people support the library in a way that makes them feel comfortable," Phillips said.
At a time when the state's continued financial problems have cost libraries dearly, every dollar generated through alternative sources helps.
"More and more libraries are going that route because of the economic conditions," Doyle said.
But sponsorship programs aren't merely fundraising tools. They can help people struggling to properly memorialize friends or relatives who have died, Doyle said.
A plaque on a meeting-room chair, near a mural or outside a room might be fitting remembrance for a book lover or longtime library patron, he said.
"There are widespread opportunities," Doyle said.