Aurora's new $28 million downtown library, slated to open in May 2015, has received a major financial boost.
Library officials announced Monday that the Richard and Gina Santori Charitable Foundation is making a $3 million donation to the Aurora Public Library Foundation to establish a technology endowment.
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The library, under construction at the corner of River and Benton streets, will be named the Richard and Gina Santori Public Library of Aurora.
"This is an absolutely huge gift," Mayor Tom Weisner said. "It is a gift for our children and will benefit us for years to come."
The endowment will ensure the downtown library and its branches will have the financial ability to provide the latest technology, officials said. Services throughout the library system will be enhanced, including the new Teen Center, which will be able to provide tablets, educational software, music and other broadcasting equipment and emerging devices.
Library officials in the past have presented a vision for the library as "transformational to the community."
Kiosks at schools and other locations could help residents download materials to e-readers without coming to the actual library, they said. Requested materials could be sent to the branch most convenient to residents with an improved identification system expediting the transfer within four business hours.
"Libraries have become much more than just a resource of books," library board President John Savage said. "They have become a hub of education, for business, for technology and for exploration. This endowment will ensure our residents today and into the future will have the most cutting-edge technology to explore, to learn and to dream."
Richard Santori, who died in 2010, owned several auto dealerships in and around Aurora and served on groups including the Aurora Regional Chamber of Commerce.
His wife, Gina, who lives in Lisle, is a physician and surgeon at Rush-Copley Medical Center in Aurora. Their foundation donated $1.25 million in 2011 to the Rush-Copley Medical Center.
Gina described her husband as "self-taught," dropping out of Lane Tech in Chicago after a year to work to support his mother. Libraries held a special significance for him.
"We'd drive by the library and Richard would say to me 'Every answer is in that building,'" Gina Santori said. "I want this library to be transformational. Hopefully what's done here spreads around the state and the country."
Through the endowment, patrons at each Aurora library location will benefit from laptops, research databases and other advanced technologies. The Learning in an Informal and Fun Environment Development Center will be able to provide technological tools to partner with educational institutions to teach about careers in science and math in an interactive way.
T'Prinn Ingram of the Teen Advisory Board, first drawn to the library a few years ago when her family was homeless and shelters were closed, spoke of how the donation will enhance what she calls "a magical place of opportunity."
"Because of this generosity, these opportunities for learning will be able to reach everybody," Ingram said.
Plans for the downtown library call for it to cover 92,000 square feet, twice the size of the existing 44,000-square-foot library at Stolp Avenue and Benton Street. The current downtown library opened in 1904 and was expanded in 1969.