A history of generosity, 1896 to 2008

“This state-of-the-art building is a prime example of how the collaborative efforts of the public and private sectors can achieve a great result.” That‘s a recent quote from Wes Curtis, president of the Library Foundation, but it could just as easily date from 1896. That‘s when the first real home of the library opened, thanks to a sizeable gift from banker A.C. Burnham.

From its founding in 1868, Champaign’s fledgling library had occupied a series of short-term spaces. Burnham’s substantial gift of $50,000, made in memory of his wife, Julia Finley Burnham, created the stately Burnham Athenaeum at 306 W. Church St., the library’s primary location until the mid-1970s.

Phyllis and Kyle Robeson

Linking Past and Present

In the present day, private support for the new library came through a campaign organized by the Library Foundation and led by Honorary Campaign Chairs Kyle and Phyllis Robeson (pictured above). The Robeson Pavilion is named in honor of their $500,000 pledge.

An anonymous $1 million gift helped launch the campaign. A new street in front of the library will be called Clara Lane, the choice of that donor. Several other significant donors will have spaces named in their honor. The checkout area recognizes a gift from Ann and Shahid Khan. The Busey Bank Computer Roomis sponsored by gifts from Busey Bank and Main Street Bank and Trust. Two public meeting rooms are named for the Library Foundation and Library Friends.

Gifts from Marci Dodds and Jon “Cody” Sokolski, the Donald C. Dodds Jr. family, and the Newton H. Dodds family are recognized in the naming of the Dodds Family TeenSpace and the Nate and Lillie Story Room (honoring the children of Marci Dodds and Cody Sokolski). Support from the Dodds family provides a direct link between the library’s newest building and its first one: donor A.C. Burnham was Marci Dodds’ great-great-grandfather.

More About Giving Options

Other generous gifts will be recognized on an etched glass donor wall and on sponsored shelves. To learn more about giving to the library, contact Donna Pittman, development director, at 217/403-2050 or dpittman@champaign.org.

The Burnham Athenaeum building

Burnham Athenaeum

Marci Dodds and Jon “Cody” Sokolski
Marci Dodds, Jon “Cody” Sokolski
Photo: Darrell Hoemann,
The News-Gazette