My morning paper tells me that the Alexander Mitchell Library Foundation is one fifth of the way toward its goal of raising $1.5 million toward the $7.7 million necessary to finance construction of Aberdeen’s new public library.
Two thirds of that opening $300K comes from folks buying up some of the cheaper naming rights for rooms in the new library. Still available are the main reading areas and the big enchilada, the granite or steel or unobtanium letters that one million dollars will bolt to the front of the building to record some wise donor’s philanthropy and bibliophilia for generations to come.
Andrew Carnegie donated $15,000 back in 1900 and put his friend’s and railroad exec Alexander Mitchell’s name on the library. Mitchell already had his last name on the Corn Palace town to our south and his first on the Hanson County seat. Chicago, Minneapolis, and St. Paul railman Charles Prior named the Hub City for his boss’s hometown of Aberdeen, Scotland. (Carnegie missed a chance for mischief by not giving the good people of Mitchell a pot of money on the condition that they name their library for Aberdeen, Scotland.)
I’m not clear on how much time Alexander Mitchell may have spent in Aberdeen or anywhere in South Dakota. He was the richest man in Wisconsin; in two terms as a Wisconsin Congressman, Mitchell missed 64.4% of roll call votes.
Aberdeen has done a pretty good job of naming its schools for local educators. We have no takers yet on the million-dollar naming rights for our new library. The Dakota Free Press tip jar is ringing (and welcomes your contributions today!), but I don’t anticipate spending a million dollars to etch Heidelberger or even the historically significant Dakota Freie Presse over the new library doors. However, I encourage any potential seven-figure donor to forgo the temptation to corporate advertisement (Dollar Loan Center Public Library? Imagine the horrors!) and honor the library and the community with a historic personal name integral to the development of Aberdeen.