Book Challenge: Hidden Treasure from the Evanston Public Library

My colleague sent the email first thing in the morning. “TOTALLY OPTIONAL, but if you want to participate in the RAILS collection challenge to showcase unusual items on social media, I’ll be happy to make it easy.”

Come back again? I scrolled down to find a message sent from RAILS (the Reaching Across Illinois Library System that connects a large number of libraries in our state). The message read: “RAILS is inviting libraries to participate in a new social media challenge to share unique items in their collections.” What followed was a list of categories. Each month there would be two challenges, starting in May and running until at least March 2023.

I scrolled lazily through the list. “The biggest item in your collection.” “Item in your collection that you are most proud of.” Hmmm. “Best kept secret in your collection.”

Oh. I was in.

See, one of the things I love about the Evanston Public Library is that, like most 149-year-old institutions (we’ll be 150 next year!!), we have a lot of . . . We will . . . Old things. statues. Documents. Signed books. That’s not to say other libraries in Illinois don’t have their own compelling collections, but here at EPL we’re a little unique. And what we have on hand is worth seeing.

Although I haven’t decided what exactly He does for all categories yet, here’s a brief rundown of some of the items you won’t really find anywhere else.

The Ghostwriter statue hangs in the library lobby. Constructed from a multitude of smaller statues, it is by Ralph Helmick and Stuart Schechter. Credit: Betsy Birdy

Biggest item in your collection: That would be the Ghostwriter statue that hangs in our lobby. No doubt you’ve seen it before. Constructed from a multitude of smaller statues, it is by Ralph Helmick and Stuart Schechter who made a similar statue at Midway Airport. Look at it from the right angle (the third floor is particularly good for this) and you can make out a whole head.

Object in your collection that best represents your community: At the top of the library, facing Orrington Avenue, are two sculptures by Richard Hunt. Their names? “Book binders.” And if Hunt’s name sounds familiar, it may be because he was recently chosen to provide a gilded sculpture named “Book Bird” for the Obama Presidential Center’s reading garden.

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