Rockford IL Library As Theater Impressario

From the Rockford Register Star: Quite a generous donation has been made to the Rockford IL Public Library, a large downtown performance space, the Sullivan Center, and the majority of library board members voted to accept the gift.

The mission statements of the Sullivan Center and Rockford Public Library may not mirror one another, but the core values are so close that the Library Board voted 5-2 Monday to take over operations of the downtown theater.

“Their mission statement is written in such a way that I think it’s very similar: promoting performance arts and education,” Trustee Dan Ross said. Marjorie Veitch and Bradley Long voted against the library’s latest acquisition.

The agreement to accept the theater as a gift from the building’s owner, Richard Nordlof, also means accepting Nordlof’s stipulations that the theater not be sold or converted into other uses, such as office space.

The agreement perhaps ends months of debate about whether the board is needlessly venturing into operations beyond its expertise.

“This is not a stretch in what libraries do,” board President Paul Logli said before the vote, and the library has a chance to lead the way in a downtown arts resurgence.

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Could be a mistake

I was library director for a public library where the board also served as the governing board of an auditorium. Neither got the full attention they deserved. This is a slippery slope. That bequest was made in 1935, it took about a decade, including court hearings and establishing a Foundation, to rid the library trustees of the audtorium.

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