Woolly Bully, the Linda Sokol Francis Brookfield Library’s bison mascot is back in the library lobby after being refurbished by the design department at Brookfield Zoo. Because the bison will be placed amid the new pollinator garden across the street (below), zoo designers decided to paint Woolly Bully in a way that reflected its place in prairie conservation and this particular place in the community. | Bob Uphues/Editor

The new parking lot across the street from the Linda Sokol Francis Brookfield Library could open to patrons as early as this week, marking something of an “official” end to the year and a half long construction project.

Library Director Kimberly Coughran told the Landmark that the last holdup was waiting for ComEd to hook up electricity to the area, which was to take place the first week of December.

But a more important milestone in the completion of that parking lot, where the library itself stood from 1914 to 2021, will be the return of the library’s mascot – Woolly Bully, the life-size bison sculpture that stood sentinel outside the library’s front door since 2010.

Woolly Bully will stand on a concrete pad amid the new pollinator garden in the small park north of the parking lot, which will be dedicated next spring. 

Interpretive signage will explain the bison’s connection to the prairie and also as a symbol of the partnership between the library and Brookfield Zoo, which brought Wooly Bully to the intersection of Grand Boulevard and Lincoln Avenue in the first place.

The zoo also created the interpretive signage for the garden and explaining the bison’s place in it. | Bob Uphues/Editor

With the demolition of the old library, officials sent Woolly Bully back to Brookfield Zoo for a new paint job in anticipation of it occupying a place of pride in the new pollinator garden.

On Nov. 19, Brookfield Zoo delivered Woolly Bully to the library, and the new paint job was a stunner.

“Woolly Bully was solid brown before,” said Coughran. “We assumed they would repaint him that way, but they basically painted the prairie and pollinators on him. They did a wonderful job on him.”

You can see for yourself if you visit the Linda Sokol Francis Brookfield Library, 3541 Park Ave., where Woolly Bully stands just inside the front entrance across from the circulation desk.

The bison’s lower half is awash in painted wildflowers, tall grasses and shrubs with butterflies floating in a bright blue sky that hugs Woolly Bully’s back.

Andre Copeland, interpretive programs manager for Brookfield Zoo, said the design services team who worked on Woolly Bully and the interpretive signage knew that the statue not only conveyed lessons in conservation but had become a mascot for the library and is beloved by patrons.

“The bison has become an extremely important part of the community and gives the library a sense of place,” Copeland said. “We really wanted to embrace the strong connection the bison has to the prairie but also its connection to the community.”

Brookfield Zoo’s design department head Andy Murashige and artist Holly Hemminger, who did the painting, finalized the design. Writer Jamie Zite-Stumbris provided the copy for the interpretive signage. The goal of the new bison/signage combo also reflects the original reason Woolly Bully came to the library, through a partnership that resulted in the Brookfield Public Library’s “Language of Conservation” exhibit back in 2010.

With Woolly Bully slated to stand amid a pollinator garden representing the prairie, “We wanted to make sure it reflected that story,’ Copeland said. “It’s not a literal, but metaphorical representation of the connection with the prairie and community. We all fell in love with the idea and hoped the people at the library would embrace it.”

The library has embraced it, even issuing a new children’s library cards depicting Woolly Bully (wearing a fedora and sunglasses). The cards have proven so popular that adults are requesting them, too, Coughran said.

The pollinator garden won’t be the only special garden dedicated next spring. Closer to the sidewalk along Lincoln Avenue, the library has set aside space for a Village of Brookfield History Garden.

In honor of the original library, founded through a $10,000 Andrew Carnegie Foundation grant, the original limestone lintel carved with the words “public library,” will be set into the ground. The Foundation for the Brookfield Library is soliciting donations to go toward the creation and maintenance of that garden.