Progress continues on a new branch of the Rock Island Public Library (RIPL) within the future Two Rivers YMCA facility at 2715 30The tenth Street in Rock Island including the announcement of the official name.
The RIPL Board of Trustees has officially voted to name the future site the Watts-Midtown branch. The name was chosen to honor the enduring support she has shown to the library by the late Lauren Evans Watts, and her son, Yodel Watts, III, as past and current members of the Library Board.
Watts was honored by the library and the Rock Island Public Library Foundation at their recent fundraiser for Thought on June 9 with the name announced, and that night’s event will be dedicated to the Lorene Evans Watts Children’s Material Fund maintained by the Library Foundation. An annual percentage of the fund’s income benefits from children’s services and programs at the Rock Island Public Library.
Community service and social justice are a kind of Watts family legacy. “My mum has always found a way to help people, and it has taken a toll on us and my dad. It really rubs off on everyone. They did it in a quiet way,” said daughter Mary (Watts) Grigsby.
“They have helped more people than we ever know,” Yodel added, noting that his mother was well known throughout their area as an after-school and summer teacher, and for the informal dining program she runs for neighbors in need. A neighbor and former teacher once told him, “She was There are days when we wouldn’t know if we would have made it, had it not been for Mrs. Watts.”
After being appointed by Mayor James Heimker, Ms. Lauren Watts served on the Library’s Board of Directors from September 1968 until late 1973. Ms. Watts completed her tenures as Secretary to the Board from 1969 through 1971, and as Vice President during the Library’s Centenary 1972-73 She served on board committees, books and periodicals, finance, and the reading committee. Prior to joining the RIPL Board of Directors, she also served on the Rock Island First Human Relations Committee from 1960 to 1965. She served as a delegate of St. Joseph’s Church in the General Diocese of Peoria for the Sixth Synod. assembly in March 1974.
Eudell Watts III was appointed to the Library’s Board of Trustees by Mayor Mark Schwiebert in October 2003. He is currently serving his third term as Chair of the Board of Trustees and also represents the library on the Board of Directors of the Rock Island Public Library Foundation. Mr. Watts contributed his culinary talents to fundraising from the Food for Thought Foundation, and created the Lauren Evans Watts Memorial Fund for Children’s Materials with the Library Foundation. Created in honor of his late mother’s contributions to education, the fund is now valued at more than $50,000. The library receives an annual stipend from the endowment.
About the project:
The former Tri-City Jewish Center is now owned by the YMCA, with the Rock Island Public Library occupying part of the building through a space sharing agreement. Renovation is in progress. The YMCA and Rock Island Public Library will share the occupancy to provide additional sites and services for their existing operations, which include the library buildings in downtown and southwest, and the Library2Go mobile library. Barring unexpected delays, completion is expected in late 2022.
The joint venture capital campaign has raised $7.8 million in private funding. Fundraising efforts continue to meet additional funding needs created by supply chain and inflation issues. For more information on fundraising for the Watts-Midtown chapter, visit https://www.rockislandlibrary.org/support.
Construction updates about the project will be posted on the library’s website on the Sites & Hours page. (https://www.rockislandlibrary.org/locations-hours/midtown)
Sean Leary is an author, director, artist, musician, producer, and entrepreneur who has written professionally since debuting at the age of eleven in the pages of the Buyers’ Guide to Comics. A graduate with honors from a USC master’s program, he has written over 50 books including the bestseller The Arimathean, Everybody’s Lucky Number and We’re All Characters.