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Margaret E. Cousin and Cynthia Smith were named to the Peoria Public Library Lincoln Branch Hall of Fame at 4:00 p.m. on Tuesday, October 17 at Lincoln Branch, a restored Carnegie Library.
The Lincoln Branch Hall of Fame was established by the Peoria Public Library Board of Trustees in order to recognize individuals, families, corporations, foundations or organizations which have supported the Peoria Public Library Lincoln Branch through distinguished effort or substantial financial donation.
An individual, family, corporation, foundation or organization may be nominated in recognition of outstanding contributions to the establishment and support of the Peoria Public Library Lincoln Branch over the years, which resulted in its improvement, national recognition as an important historical structure and ability to continue providing library services to the people of Peoria.
Margaret E. Cousin became a champion for Lincoln Branch Library in 2007 when she began attending Peoria Public Library Board Building Committee meetings as a representative of the Central Illinois Landmarks Foundation (CILF), a group that was concerned about how the historic Carnegie building would fare during a massive library renovation project. Margaret and CILF wanted to safeguard the historical integrity and longevity of Lincoln Branch to the greatest extent possible, in part because they had been instrumental in getting the Library declared a Local Historic Landmark by the City of Peoria Historic Preservation Commission.
Margaret’s multi-year commitment to the Peoria Public Library Building Committee and their weekly meetings led to a long-standing seat on the Peoria Public Library Board of Trustees. Her continued interest and passion lead to her involvement in the successful application process to have the Peoria Public Library Lincoln Branch listed on the National Register of Historic Places. She authored most of the application and participated in the formal presentation of the application to the State of Illinois Historic Preservation Agency Board of Directors. Through persistence and dedication, Margaret’s efforts led to Peoria Public Library Lincoln Branch being placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Cynthia Smith was appointed Manager of Lincoln Branch in February 1999, after serving on the Lincoln Branch staff since 1996. She has played a key role in making the Lincoln Branch a true center of the Southside community. With energy, dynamism and hard work she has spear-headed efforts that have exceeded all expectations for this branch library since the decision was made to significantly expand the facility as part of the voter-approved capital improvement program for the entire Peoria Public Library system. Year after year, under her leadership, Lincoln Branch has received a Project Next Generation grant from the Illinois State Library, bringing advanced technological experiences, as well as life skills, to an underserved population. Events such as the fall Halloween and spring Egg Hunt parties entice broad sections of the community to experience what the library has to offer. As an extra incentive to encourage children to participate in Summer Reading, she has solicited and received donations of bicycles that are given away during drawings to children who read all summer. In 2017, over 60 donated bicycles and helmets were awarded. Organizer of the long-time book club, Read On Book Club, she helps this group find, read and discuss African-American literature and has planned many author events, hosting authors from the New York Times best-seller lists who are now eager to visit Peoria. Cynthia has hosted an annual Gala that raises funds for the Friends of Peoria Public Library featuring an elegant evening with an award- winning author, fine food and music, all held in the historic Carnegie Lincoln Branch. Cynthia Smith has helped to make Lincoln Branch a vital and unique part of Peoria.
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