Palo Alto Weekly

News - December 23, 2011

Mitchell Park Library project gets $1.9 million boost

Contribution from Palo Alto Library Foundation to pay for equipment, furniture at the new library

by Gennady Sheyner

Palo Alto's effort to build the Mitchell Park Library and Community Center — by far the largest and most ambitious project in the $76 million bond voters passed in 2008 — received a major lift Monday (Dec. 19) when a group of community volunteers contributed $1.9 million to the city to pay for books, computers and furniture in the new library.

The contribution by the Palo Alto Library Foundation is among the largest donations by a nonprofit organization to the city in Palo Alto's history and the most substantial since the construction of the Lucie Stern Community Center, according to Bern Beecham, president of the foundation.

Beecham told the council that the check "represents the support of over 800 people in the broader community to the libraries of Palo Alto." The foundation, he said, is committed to raising $4 million to furnish the three libraries whose renovations were included in the 2008 bond package (the Downtown Library project was completed in July, and Main Library construction will start after the Mitchell Park branch reopens next year). The group has already raised $3.6 million, or roughly 90 percent of its target amount, he said.

While the bond funds can only be used for the library's construction, the foundation's contribution will pay for technology, books, furniture and electronic materials for the new facility. The foundation had also contributed $275,000 to furnish the Downtown Library.

"I don't think it's just rhetoric to say that this is a historic moment in Palo Alto's history — to have a coalition of citizens come together and say that one of our Palo Alto resources is important enough that we're going to donate to the tune of $1.9 million," Palo Alto Mayor Sid Espinosa said. "It's truly extraordinary."

Other council members shared Espinosa's enthusiasm.

"I think libraries are the ultimate democratic institution, and this is really a wonderful moment," Gail Price said.

The campaign, chaired by Alison Cormack and Susie Thom, has received contributions ranging from $25 to $1.5 million, according to a statement from the foundation. Those who contribute $5,000 or more will be recognized for joining at the "Leadership" level on the donor wall at each of the three libraries.

The foundation's "Launch our Libraries" campaign will continue until December 2012.

More information about the fundraising effort is available at www.palf.org.

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