March 18, 2018

In Tough Times, Million Dollar Gifts Never Hurt

It’s fair to say that when writing about library finances most of news is fairly depressing. So, it is good to hear about some bright spots.

The Palo Alto Library Foundation (PALF) has been raising money to help properly furnish the Mitchell Park Library and Community Center, the Main Library, and the Downtown Library, which are being upgraded thanks to the $76 million Measure N bond passed in 2008. The bond money cannot be used to purchase furniture, books, computers, and other resources.

The foundation’s “Launch Our Libraries” campaign has so far received 800 donations and raised $3.6 million. The goal is to raise another $400,000 by December 2012.

On December 20,  PALF presented the City Council with a check for $1.9 million to buy all the furniture, technology, and materials needed for the Mitchell Park Library and Community Center, which is scheduled to reopen in 2012.

Meanwhile, in Wisconsin, an avid reader in Oshkosh named Marjorie M. Drexler, who passed away on August 16, 2010, made a $1.1 million bequest to the Oshkosh Public Library, the library announced Dec. 16. The Library Board voted on Dec. 15 to establish a memorial trust fund with the bequest.

“Bequests like these, and smaller annual gifts from generous area residents, help to elevate our organization from a good library to an excellent library,” said Jeff Gilderson-Duwe, library director. “Although the majority of our operations are funded by tax dollars, donations and bequests help the library to better meet the needs of the community with a wide variety of collections, services and creative initiatives. And donors like Mrs. Drexler are leaving a legacy that will touch many lives for years to come,” Gilderson-Duwe said.

The Library Board allocates trust fund income for library projects and services annually and will decide at a later date how to use earnings from the Drexler fund.

Similarly, in Connecticut,  the Southbury Public Library received a surprise $1 million donation on Dec. 9 from the estate of Lu Burke, a longtime Southbury resident who died in October 2010 at age 90 and who, apparently, did not have a library card, the Danbury News Times reported.

“We don’t remember her as a patron here, but she did have a background in a lot of literature,” Assistant Head Librarian Joan Stokes told the News Times. “From what we’ve heard of her, she really loved knowledge and literature, and obviously loved libraries.”

The library board will determine how to use the donation.

Last but not least, the Carnegie Corporation today made the official announcement of a $5 million grant to the three New York City public library systems. Vartan Gregorian, president of Carnegie Corporation of New York, first mentioned the grant at the “I Love My Librarian” award ceremony that was held earlier this month.

Michael Kelley About Michael Kelley

Michael Kelley ( is the former Editor-in-Chief, Library Journal.