November 23, 2015

NYPL Receives Surprisingly Large Bailey Bequest

Mary McConnell Bailey lived a quiet life, according to the New York Post. Widowed since World War II, childless, Bailey lived in “a modest apartment on the East Side,” volunteered at a hospital and schools, and regularly visited the New York Public Library’s 58th Street Branch. She’d been supporting the library, in her quiet way, since the 1970s, giving a total of about $300,000 over her lifetime, particularly as she got older.

“She enjoyed giving and was thoughtful about where the money went, especially the summer reading program,” John M. Bacon, NYPL’s director of planned giving, told LJ.

Bailey was member of the NYPL’s recognition society, composed of about 1000 people who have planned to leave the library a bequest in their estate. So when she passed away in 2011 at the age of 88, the library knew it would receive some further remembrance. But nothing on the scale of what it finally got: the library recently received a check for $10 million. (Another $10 million went to the Central Park Conservancy.)

It was a “fortune nobody dreamed she had,” the Post said. Bailey’s money came, in large part, from a family inheritance, in turn derived from the proceeds of the iconic black and white marbled notebook.

The only stipulation on the bequest is that half the funds go to NYPL’s nearly 90 branches. Bacon told LJ that the rest of the funds, otherwise unrestricted, would probably be spent for operations. “It gives the program staff added flexibility to do more, and to keep up service when our public funding is under threat, which it has been ever since I got here 10 years ago,” said Bacon. NYPL raises about $20 million in private money per year, and has an endowment of about $900 million, which generates approximately $12 million per year. Said Bacon, “this bequest becomes endowment funds, and those are incredibly important because they support long term operations.”

Meredith Schwartz About Meredith Schwartz

Meredith Schwartz ( is Executive Editor of Library Journal.

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