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Evanston Library loses friend and innovator

Children's librarian Gay Catherine
Children's librarian Gay Catherine "Gigi" Galich was an innovator behind many of the Evanston Public Library's popular programs. | Provided
Bob Seidenberg
bseidenberg@pioneerlocal.com | @evanstonscribe
July 10 10:30 a.m.

Working with Gay Catherine “Gigi” Galich as a fellow librarian at the Evanston Public Library, Brian Wilson’s memories include an early literacy program for babies.

“One of the best parts of working with her was watching her interact with the infants who attended her programs,” Wilson said. “She radiated a joy for these children who would match her captivating smiles with smiles of their own. She understood them, loved them and was looking out for them, possessing the belief that all children could become lifelong readers.”

Fellow librarians are among those coping with the loss of the popular librarian.

Galich died July 2, from injuries she received June 30 when the bicycle she was riding collided with a motorcycle on Church Street, just as she was turning from a bike lane into the library lot for a day at work.

She was 55.

The library brought in a grief counselor on the day of the accident and also arranged to have one on an as-needed basis after, said Karen Danczak Lyons, library director.

Gigi “was an energetic, dedicated member of the library staff,” whose creative initiatives were behind many of the programs and services at the library today, Lyons said.

Galich started the library’s Lego Club, as well as the Super Heroes and Princesses collections in the children’s areas.

“You can’t look around in the main public library and not see books she purchased or programs or ideas,” Lyons said. “She knew books and collections and reading and the science behind reading, and how important it was for early literacy to be encouraged.”

Library Board President Michael Tannen would stop by Galich’s desk in the children’s library after board meetings.

“Gigi was whip-smart, and she had a wry sense of humor,” he said. “She was passionate about children’s literacy and knowledgeable about the latest trends in the field,” he said. “Gigi was excited about the new summer reading collaboration between librarians of EPL and District 65. We had many conversations about the role of graphic novels in literacy and education. Most of those conversations occurred while she deftly answered countless questions from little kids looking for this or that.”

Colleagues also spoke of the impact Galich had on programs, and the uncommon dedication and enthusiasm she brought to the job.

Wilson called Galich “quite simply one of the most creative and innovative people I have ever met. She loved libraries and was a strong advocate for the patrons they serve and assist.”

Another librarian, Laura Antolin, was a frequent collaborator with Galich on many of the projects that highlighted the summer reading program, designed to whet youngsters’ interest in books.

She recalled her friend as “a very creative personality and really talented,” and someone who used her construction skills in the projects they were building.

The two teamed up to create a make-believe travel agency for the summer reading project last year, which lasted well past summer’s end.

Working with the program’s theme, “Have Books, Will Travel,” the two purchased wardrobe boxes from U-Haul for the walls of the agency and added a makeshift desk and computer keyboard inside.

Children would sit in the travel agency, selling tickets to their parents to travel to distant places, Antolin recalled.

They would add stickers or tissues to the projects, attesting to their participation, and the project became “something kids could participate in every time they came back to the library to take out a book to read,” Antolin said.

In their last project together, the two came up with a “Dream Catcher,” in which kids weaved recycled plastic bags into the apparatus. Galich got the idea on a trip out of town and called Antolin excitedly.

“She loved learning new things and applying them to her work and her storytimes,” she recalled.

Susan Robertson, retired collections development librarian for the Evanston Public Library, would get together with Galich on knitting projects.

Galich was the more accomplished knitter, she said, and would knit everything from socks to sweaters.

“She was amazingly creative and always cheerful,” she said. “She was like my partner in crime because, when we would buy too much yarn, she would just say, ‘oh, well, it’s for art, it’s worth it.

“She was so good with children. She loved her family and friends. It’s really a loss.’’

Galich’s parents, Jerry, a retired graphic designer, and Lorna, a retired former school teacher and organization development specialist, moved to Evanston in 1967, primarily because of the school system, said Lorna.

Galich “was born wise,” her mother recalled. “She had a marvelous sense of humor.”

As a child, her parents sometimes would hear her in the middle of the night, giggling in her sleep, they recalled.

A reader from the time she was a small child, “the library was really an extension of her personality,’’ her mother said.

Since her death, people have been dropping by the children’s room in the main library, dropping off flowers and plants and books, said Laura Antolin.

“People feel the loss and (feel) the need to do something,’’ she said. “I think we all feel that human need.’’

A memorial service in Gigi’s honor has been set for 2 p.m., Aug. 9, at the Unitarian Church of Evanston, 1330 Ridge Ave., where the family has been longtime members.

She is survived by her parents, Jerry and Lorna Galich; a husband, Paul Magura; daughter, Selena, and son Sam; brother Gavin and sister Abigail.

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