Former Galesburg library director, creator of ‘Little Free Libraries,’ dies

Bruce Owen Barkley
Bruce Barkley

A longtime former Galesburg Public Library director who later helped with the creation of the “Little Free Libraries” installed in the Galesburg area has died.

Bruce Barkley, who guided the Galesburg Public Library as its director from 1982-1998, died March 30 at his Galesburg home. He was 90.

Active in professional organizations, Barkley was president of the Illinois Library System Trustees and a member of the American and Illinois Library Associations. He joined the noon Rotary Club serving as president and was recognized as a Paul Harris Fellow. His Rotary legacy is the Little Free Libraries installed in the Galesburg area.

Obituary: Bruce O. Barkley: August 9, 1933  –  March 30, 2024

Barkley also was instrumental in the creation of the Story Time Garden in the children’s portion of the library.

According to his obituary, Barkley was a member of Grace Anglican Church, sang in the Galesburg Community Chorus, and was active in Jazz Unlimited. He loved photography, was a musician (guitar and piano) and in younger years, sang at weddings. He read widely and would stay up all night to finish a good book. 

“Bruce meant a lot to me as a brand new library board member because I didn’t know anything about it or what I was require to do,” said Martin Reichel, treasurer of the Galesburg Public Library Board of Trustees.

“He was very helpful to me personally, and I think he did a great job of running the library.”

Visitation for Bruce Barkley will be 5 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Grace Anglican Church in Galesburg. Funeral Mass will be 11 a.m. Friday at the church followed by a celebration of life and a luncheon.