1000 Paper Cranes

Our library is located a few miles from a shooting that took place in Highland Park, Illinois last summer. As the one-year mark of the shooting approached, our library wanted to provide an opportunity for our community to demonstrate their compassion for our neighbors in Highland Park.

We asked patrons to stop by the library lobby to pick up paper and instructions to create an origami paper crane, a symbol of hope and healing during challenging times. Our goal was to create 1,000 paper cranes.

Advanced Planning

As the one-year mark of the shooting approached, we worked to find an appropriate way to honor the victims, their families and friends. Our community engagement department considered thoughtful signage for a lobby display, purchased the origami paper and custom guestbook and designed a handout with step-by-step instructions. We also asked our facilities department to build a plexiglass container that showed our progress towards reaching 1000 cranes.

When preparing the copy to communicate this project, we were careful to follow the communication guidelines provided by the village that allowed us to share information in a compassionate, trauma-informed manner.

It can be a challenge to fold the paper cranes and have a nice outcome. To address this obstacle, we provided directions on paper, as well as a QR code that linked to a video demonstration. We also trained several staff members on how to fold the cranes so that if a patron needed assistance, we could help them.


We promoted this project with an article in our summer newsletter. The display was placed in a prominent spot in our lobby, so that it was hard to miss.


$250 for origami paper and materials.

Day-of-event Activity

This was a passive activity that didn’t require regular staffing and was out for an entire month.

Once we reached our goal, we presented the guest book and cranes to the mayor and village manager of Highland Park. They were very appreciative of the support for their community.

Program Execution

We supplied origami paper to create the paper cranes. Once the crane was complete, patrons added it to a collection bin in our lobby that showed our progress. The 1,000 origami figures represent the compassion that we feel for the victims’ families. Patrons could also sign a guest book with a healing message that we gave to the village administration.

In Japanese folklore, cranes are a strong majestic bird that is said to live for a thousand years. It symbolizes loyalty and longevity. These formidable characteristics are why the Japanese believed that anyone with the commitment to fold 1,000 origami cranes would be given good fortune.

It can be hard to know what to say or do following a tragedy, but this project allowed everyone to collectively make a statement about our tremendous compassion for the victims’ families.

The response from our community was overwhelmingly positive. Patrons of all ages participated. They could be spotted throughout the building making cranes and depositing them in the collection bin. We easily achieved our goal of folding 1000 cranes.


Don’t be afraid to address a tragedy impacting your community. Your community will appreciate the opportunity to have a voice and show support for others. Taking action on your own can be scary, but when doing it with others, it can feel more comfortable and encourages a shared sense of community.

Supporting Materials

Slideshow Images