To kick off the 150th anniversary year of the Rock Island Public Library, the 25th-annual Frieze Lecture series focuses on ideas that had a profound impact in their own times – much like the opening of the Rock Island library, the first tax-supported public library to open in Illinois.

The free Frieze Lecture Series starts at the Rock Island Public Library on Oct. 20, for four straight Thursdays.

The free lecture series takes place on four Thursdays at 2 p.m., Oct. 20, 27, Nov. 3, and 10, in the Community Room of the Downtown Library, 401 19th St. The annual Frieze Lectures, a partnership between the Rock Island Public Library and Augustana College, will offer four faculty presentations on works that fundamentally affected the cultural landscape.

The Rock Island Main Library Community Room, 401 19th St., is home to the annual Frieze Lecture Series, which begin Oct. 20 at 2 p.m.

Due to a schedule change, next Thursday’s lecture now includes a new speaker and topic. Dr. Paul Olsen, of the Augustana English Department, will discuss the great “truths” of American icon William Styron (1925-2006), best known for Sophie’s Choice (1979). The New York Times 2006 obituary noted that the late author’s “explorations of difficult historical and moral questions earned him a place among the leading literary figures of the post-World War II generation.”

Just as having a truly public library available to Rock Island citizens in 1872 was seen as a life-changing event, this year’s lecture themes focus on ideas that had a seismic impact in their own times, according to a Thursday library release. Each lecture features an Augustana faculty member discussing books that mark significant artistic, scientific, or political movements.

All of the following lectures in the series begin at 2 p.m., and are free and open to the public:

  • Oct. 20: William Styron’s Sophie’s Choice, presented by Paul Olsen, Professor of English. Responding to the recent surge in book banning, this talk will focus on the “truths” of iconic American author William Styron. He made two separate speaking weekends to Augustana, packing Centennial Hall first and later returning to the Carver Center for the 2001 commencement address (when he received an honorary doctorate). Two of Styron’s works have been the subject of book challenges (“Sophie’s Choice” and “The Confessions of Nat Turner.”).
  • Oct. 27The 1619 Project, edited by Nikole Hannah-Jones, and presented by Dr. Lauren Hammond, associate professor of history. The long-form journalism project reframes the country’s history around the perspectives and contributions of Black Americans.
  • Nov. 3Cosmos and the work of Alexander von Humboldt, presented by Dr. Stephen Hager, professor of biology. Considered by some as the first environmentalist, von Humboldt’s work is a holistic observation of all of nature.
  • Nov. 10Beloved by Toni Morrison, presented by Dr. Ashley Burge, assistant professor of English. Morrison’s literary masterpiece has faced multiple book ban challenges for its frank depiction of the horrors of slavery.

Immediately following this last Frieze Lecture on Nov. 10, the library will host a 150th birthday party from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., with cake, special giveaways and contests, behind-the-scenes library tours, and other activities. Party guests are encouraged to bring items or special greetings to go into a 150th anniversary time capsule.

For a lasting keepsake of the event, attendees and families can pose with a book or library card for a professional photo. Those who dress as their favorite literary character may win a prize. The party launches a year of special 150th anniversary programming.

“The Frieze Lecture series with Augustana College began with the celebration of the library’s 125th anniversary, so it was a particularly appropriate way to kick off our 150th,” said library director Angela Campbell. “We are honored to continue our association with Augustana College, which brings college-level lectures into the public learning setting of the library.”

All of the above events are free and open to the public. Refreshments follow each lecture. Ample onsite parking is available. Both the library and the Community Room are fully accessible. 

For more events at the Rock Island Public Library, anniversary or otherwise, visit, call 309-732-READ, or follow library social media sites.