June 2019 | XXXVII. Issue 3 »

Shared Space: An Academic Library Partnering with Local Non-Profits

May 30, 2019
Kathy Ladell, Northern Illinois University Libraries

In a time when state and local governments are scaling back on funding for all types of libraries, it becomes essential to show stakeholders and governing bodies the value andworthiness of financial support. One way to manage budgets effectively and judiciously is through partnering with other organizations to pool together resources and personnel to serve the community better. Public libraries have a long history of working creatively with non-profit organizations, schools, and other municipal entities. Another way of doing outreach beyond the campus and its students can take the form of providing a venue space and preserving an artifact of local history. Founders Memorial Library, on the campus of Northern Illinois University, found itself in this exact situation when the local DeKalb Masonic Lodge needed assistance in preserving a portrait of Jacob Haish, a local inventor of barbed wire, longtime Lodge member, and one of the “Founders” for which this library is named.

Jacob Haish was a lumber dealer and builder living in DeKalb, Illinois, during the 1870s. During this time, farmers were looking for an alternative to stone and rail fences to protect their livestock, since these materials required extensive maintenance and didn’t prevent animals from escaping. It was at the DeKalb County Fair in 1873 where a fencing attachment exhibit exposed Haish, along with two other local prominent businessmen, Joseph Glidden and Isaac Ellwood, to a new invention that they would subsequently develop into barbed wire. Within six months, Haish, along with his colleagues, began to design different types of barbed wire (Bigolin 1983). Haish alone created nine different types of barbed wire and was most famous for the “S” design.

As a result of his success in barbed wire, Haish built a mansion and became a philanthropist. Haish, and his barbed wire rivals, Ellwood and Glidden, along with newspaper editor Clinton Rosette, established Northern Illinois State Normal School, which is now Northern Illinois University. The campus’s main library, Founders Memorial Library, is named in memory of these four distinguished gentlemen. Haish, alone, went on to fund several other community projects, including the purchase of books for the Normal School Library and the construction of the Haish Memorial Library, now known as the DeKalb Public Library. Almost a century after his death, his estate donated $450,000 to fund the Kishwaukee Community Hospital in 2006. Given Haish’s philanthropic contributions, it was a great honor for Founders Memorial Library to dedicate the Jacob Haish portrait, which now hangs in the newly established Founders Gallery along with the portraits of Joseph Glidden and Isaac Ellwood.

As a result of his success in barbed wire, Haish built a mansion and became a philanthropist. Haish, and his barbed wire rivals, Ellwood and Glidden, along with newspaper editor Clinton Rosette, established Northern Illinois State Normal School, which is now Northern Illinois University. The campus’s main library, Founders Memorial Library, is named in memory of these four distinguished gentlemen. Haish, alone, went on to fund several other community projects, including the purchase of books for the Normal School Library and the construction of the Haish Memorial Library, now known as the DeKalb Public Library. Almost a century after his death, his estate donated $450,000 to fund the Kishwaukee Community Hospital in 2006. Given Haish’s philanthropic contributions, it was a great honor for Founders Memorial Library to dedicate the Jacob Haish portrait, which now hangs in the newly established Founders Gallery along with the portraits of Joseph Glidden and Isaac Ellwood.

A dedication reception held for the portrait’s installation in October, 2018 was a community-wide function and all were invited. Many members of the DeKalb Masonic Lodge and Haish’s family attended the event. Jessi Haish LaRue, the fourth great-niece of Jacob Haish, maintains a blog and got the word out to relatives. Several notable guests attended, including Dr. Freeman and Fred Barnhart, the dean of NIU Libraries. A member of the Masonic Lodge and local historian, Steve Bigolin, spoke at the event and presented on the history of Haish, Glidden, and Ellwood, and led a discussion of the three portraits.

Founders Memorial Library played an important role in highlighting a significant local figure about whom some in the community might not have known, especially since his legacy has at times been overshadowed by Joseph Glidden and Isaac Ellwood. Future community events can now be held at the newly established Founders Gallery, for which this talk was the inaugural event. The library contributed its physical space for the dedication and an open wall to hang Haish’s portrait among the other two DeKalb founders. Inviting Haish’s family and Masonic Lodge members from the community broadened the constituency that is now aware of the library’s collections. Preserving and protecting the portraits will allow future generations to learn about DeKalb’s founding fathers.

WORKS CITED

Bigolin, Steve. The Barbed Wire Saga. DeKalb: Gurler Heritage Association, 1983.

LaRue, Jessi. “A Twist in History: The Jacob Haish Story.” last modified January 24, 2019, http://www.jacobhaishstory.com/

iREAD Summer Reading Programs

The 2019 iREAD theme, It's Showtime At Your Library Themed graphics and much more is here!

Visit the iREAD website »

Latest Library JobLine Listings

Browse all JobLine listings »