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.

A selection committee of five individuals, including the President of the Board of Trustees, the Peoria Public Library Director, the Lincoln Branch Manager, a representative from the surrounding neighborhood and a representative from social or business organization with a sustained relationship with Lincoln Branch choose recommended individuals or entities through a nomination process. 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.

Established March 15, 2016

Edward J. Barry, Jr.

Edward J. Barry, Jr. was a member of the architectural team that was working on bringing the dream of a reimagined Peoria Public Library system to life when in 2010, Mr. Barry proposed to the Library Board of Trustees that they apply for a National Register of Historic Places designation for Lincoln Branch. The building was one of the few remaining original Carnegie Libraries that has continued to function as a public library throughout its existence and, as such, is an architecturally-significant gem in the heart of Peoria. The plan for Lincoln Branch was to restore the original building while expanding the footprint with a thoroughly modern addition that could provide twenty-first century library service. On October 20, 2010 a request, with a Statement of Integrity written by Ed Barry, was submitted to the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency. In January of 2011 the Peoria Public Library was invited to apply for National Register of Historic Places designation. Ed recruited members of Farnsworth Group, River City Construction, and Roeckers to complete sections of the complicated reports, working on many pieces himself as well as directing work on the slide presentation to the final hearing and accompanying Trustees to the presentation in Springfield. The Lincoln Branch application faced significant hurdles throughout the restoration process. Through the multi-year, often frustrating and discouraging battle to meet the Illinois Historic Preservation requests, Ed Barry provided passionate, capable, committed support to the project. His inspiration for and continued dedication to pursuit of the historic designation were the driving force behind achieving the ultimate goal of placing Peoria Public Library Lincoln Branch on the National Register of Historic Places, thus preserving it for generations to come.

Margaret E. Cousin

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.

Linda E. Daley

Linda E. Daley served as a Trustee of the Peoria Public Library governing board during the “Close the Gaps: Libraries For All” Peoria Public Library capital improvement project which began in 2006. The newly created strategic plan called for offering facilities capable of providing cutting edge library service. One of the guiding lights of this capital improvement program was the equitable distribution of public library services to all neighborhoods and sections of the City of Peoria. Thus, when the decision was made to add the new North Branch to the far northwest corner of the City, Linda “closed the gaps” and made sure that the older, south side part of our community received the same attention by advocating for the expansion of the Lincoln Branch. She also served as the Chairwoman of the Library Board of Trustees Building Committee at this same time, managing the entire design and construction phases of that process during committee meetings conducted weekly for a multi-year period. In spite of several major challenges, such as the $500,000 in additional expense at the Lincoln Park site required to relocate historic grave features in order to accommodate the Lincoln addition, Linda successfully guided the Building Committee, Board and Community to the completion of the Peoria Public Library Lincoln Branch which stands as both as a recognized historic monument and a beacon for literacy and community service in Peoria’s south side.

Kathleen Powers Ditewig

In 1970, Lincoln Branch was nearly closed and demolished due to declining circulation and concerns over the deteriorating neighborhood surrounding it. Kathleen Powers Ditewig, a neighborhood resident and mother with no experience in politics, no money and no connections, ran a successful grassroots campaign that saved the branch from closing.

Upon seeing a headline in the newspaper on October 17, 1970 that said, “Oldest Peoria Branch Library May Move to New Quarters” by reporter Theo Jean Kenyon, Mrs. Ditewig took action. Armed with a phone book and foot power, she began visiting and calling the neighbors and businesses. Mrs. Ditewig and her new partners began attending library board meetings and started a letter-writing campaign that attacked the argument that circulation was declining because of increased crime in the neighborhood. By researching library board meeting minutes and police reports she proved that circulation had not fallen, except in the children’s area, and that crime had not increased. With an ever-growing group of allies she focused on generating awareness among local residents and increasing circulation at Lincoln Branch. The Boy Scouts answered her call and went door to door to gather signatures. Local schools joined in and increased library usage. Mrs. Ditewig and her supporters picketed the library, too, as a means to raise awareness and collect signatures. By January of 1971 the Library Board had decided to keep the branch open while they decided the ultimate fate of the Carnegie building. Upon hearing that indecisive result, Mrs. Ditewig continued her efforts to such effect that by March of 1971 the Board of Trustees decided to keep the branch in tip-top shape, thus keeping it open while other, smaller branches closed.

Peoria Journal Star reporter Norm Bain had called her “a quiet, non-leader type” in a newspaper article. After securing the continued operation of Lincoln Branch, Kathleen Powers Ditewig returned to her quiet life as a resident of the neighborhood and frequent user of Lincoln Branch which is now on the National Register of Historic Places and considered one of the anchors of the south side of Peoria.

Henry Pindell Slane

Henry Pindell Slane was a descendant of one of Peoria’s pioneer families and helped run the Peoria Journal Star, owned by his family, for more than 30 years. Mr. Slane was a true champion for Lincoln Branch in the early 1990s when he learned that an area used primarily for children had been closed to the public because it no longer met safety codes. After approaching the Peoria Public Library Board of Trustees he learned the library did not have the means to repair the 1911 Carnegie building that had so well served the south side of the city. His concern led him to donate more than $500,000 to have Peoria Public Library Lincoln Branch refurbished inside and out in 1993. Mr. Slane’s grandfather, Henry M. Pindell, the founder of the family publishing empire, had been instrumental in getting Lincoln Branch constructed through a donation from Andrew Carnegie. Through the generosity of Henry Slane, the building was able to continue to furnish library service until a complete renovation and addition were completed in 2011. His donation remains the largest ever received by Peoria Public Library.

Cynthia Smith

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 best-seller lists who are now eager to visit Peoria. For several years Cynthia has hosted a 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.

South-West Kiwanis Club

Kiwanis International was founded in 1915, initially focused on business networking. Just four years later, in 1919, they changed focused to service – specifically dedicating their work to improving the lives of children, one community at a time.

The South-West Kiwanis Club of Peoria, established in 1957, is one of nearly 8,000 clubs worldwide performing more than 240,000 service projects each year. This global volunteer organization annually raises almost $340 million and dedicates more than 7.3 million hours to strengthen communities and help children.

Beginning in the summer of 1992, a dedicated group of 20 South-West Kiwanis met every Tuesday afternoon at Lincoln Branch with the children living in Peoria’s South Side. Over the course of each three-hour session every Tuesday, the adult volunteers and eager children would read together and play games. Checkers and Uno were favorites. There is a saying that children are great imitators so give them something great to imitate. This club did that. While only volunteers, this dedicated group treated every Tuesday afternoon like it was their job to be there. Cross-generational friendships flourished. Young Lincoln Branch readers found a goldmine of patient wisdom within their friends at South-West Kiwanis. This club had a positive effect on students in a variety of ways, including their personal life, academics, and professional endeavors. Two Peoria Public Library employees, Maggie Nelson and Suzanne Buchanan, were also instrumental in starting and stewarding this important program.

In addition to the Tuesday tutoring program at Lincoln Branch, the South-West Kiwanis also spent time reading to students at Peoria Public Library’s former South Branch, located in Harrison Homes. Funds were donated to purchase books for the Lincoln and South branches. Additional monies were given to expand Peoria Public Library’s Summer Reading program, benefitting every child in Peoria.

“Reading is so important to the development of children. It allows them to be creative and helps them understand themselves and others.” ~ Suzanne Buchanan, Lincoln Branch head librarian, who helped start the South-West Kiwanis mentoring program.

Barbara Van Auken

Barbara Van Auken has been a true champion of Peoria Public Library, every location, but some of her most active service has been in support of Lincoln Branch, our city’s only Carnegie Library. When it became clear in the early 1990s that the library did not have the means to repair the 1911 Carnegie building, Ms. Van Auken worked tirelessly to help secure the necessary private funds to refurbish the jewel of the South Side. The resulting $500,000 donation from Peoria philanthropist Henry Pindell Slane is still, to date, the largest donation ever received by Peoria Public Library.

Whether in her role as a Peoria City Councilwoman or a Peoria Public Library Board Trustee and President, Ms. Van Auken has always played a significant role in ensuring Lincoln Branch is front and center in our community. During her first term as Library Board President, Ms. Van Auken sought to keep city leaders from cutting the library’s budget while simultaneously working to raise private funds to beautify the city-owned park surrounding Lincoln Branch. She co-chaired the “Adopt-A-Tree” project to help complete the landscape renovation.

In 2009, while in her role as 2nd District City Councilwoman, Ms. Van Auken supported the city’s adoption of Lincoln Branch as a historic landmark. The good works that Ms. Van Auken and so many others like her have poured into Lincoln Branch, which serves some of the city’s most disadvantaged, are what have made it the true heart of the Southside.

“I don’t think anyone has any question whatsoever that one of the few remaining Carnegie libraries in the area is a historic landmark,” ~ Barbara Van Auken, then 2nd District City Councilwoman and former Peoria Public Library Board Trustee and President