Chicago Public Library to Honor Tom Wolfe

October 13th, 2008

Library fundraiser to honor Tom Wolfe
By: Mary Cameron Frey

The Chicago Public Library Foundation, an independent non-profit organization that raises funds to support technology, programming and collections, will celebrate its 22nd anniversary with the Carl Sandburg Literary Awards Dinner on Wednesday. The evening will be co-chaired by civic leaders Debbie Bricker and John Bryan. Awards will be presented to authors Tom Wolfe, whose “The Right Stuff” is the current reading selection for “One Book, One Chicago,” and Chicagoan Theresa Schwegel, who writes mysteries and crime fiction. Crain's spoke with Ms. Bricker.

CRAIN'S: How did you become involved with the Chicago Public Library Foundation?
MS. BRICKER: I've always loved books. When I was growing up in Hagerstown, Md., my mother would take me to the library every Saturday morning, let me select the books I wanted to check out, and then I would stay and listen to the “story lady,” who read aloud to a bunch of us children. Leslie Hindman proposed me for membership on the board in 2002; I accepted and I now serve as vice-chairman of the foundation.

What's new and different about Chicago's public libraries today?
In addition to all the books, DVDs and CDs still available, we offer four excellent programs: the summer reading program; “One Book, One Chicago,” which tries to get many Chicagoans reading and discussing the same book at the same time; “Teachers in the Library,” which has teachers in 55 of the 79 branch libraries helping with homework after school, and Cyber Navigators, a group of capable young computer gurus who teach library users computer skills and how to make a computer a part of their life.

Tell us about the dinner.
Once again, we're sold out, with 500-plus guests for cocktails, dinner, the award presentations to authors Tom Wolfe and Chicagoan Theresa Schwegel, and brief remarks by both winners. We expect to raise in excess of $800,000.
You have adopted the Blackstone Branch Library in Hyde Park and fund a Teacher in the Library, so you must be serious about philanthropy.
When I was a child, I can remember my parents sitting down each Saturday and dividing the money from my father's pay. There was always something set aside for some charity, even though they didn't have a great deal. So, philanthropy has become a part of my life and of who I am, a natural thing for me. I've been so blessed with my business success over the years that I think philanthropy is an obligation.