Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 38
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
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Countdown to Centennial: Library Needs $500,000

Dilshanie Perera

As of Tuesday morning, the Princeton Public Library had raised $9.5 million for the launch of its first-ever endowment fund. Director Leslie Burger mentioned the news to a gathering of the Princeton Merchants Association, adding that since the goal is $10 million, staff at the library would be seeking $25,000 from donors every day for the next 20 days so that the target could be met in time for the library’s centennial celebration on October 10.

“The best gift of all that we can give to this community is ensuring the future of the library,” Ms. Burger said. Last week, fundraisers secured $276,000 in contributions, she reported. “We’re asking for gifts of $25,000 payable over five years, and we’ve set up an easy payment plan.”

The foundation-building efforts emerged out of discussions beginning about 10 years ago. Ms. Burger noted that the talk centered on the “need for a budget to support and expand the library” beyond the contributions from the municipalities, which “would eventually hit their capacity.”

A task force was put together to analyze and spur the reduction of library operating costs, and to brainstorm ways of solidifying financial security for the library. Thus, the idea of an endowment of $10 million was born.

Between now and then the public library has moved from Witherspoon Street to the Shopping Center and back again, and has weathered the economic collapse. Ms. Burger noted that the major fundraising efforts began in earnest about two years ago. Contributions are cash and pledges from individual donors, including a $2.5 million gift from George and Estelle Sands made at the time of the construction of the new library building.

An all-volunteer investment committee oversees the endowment dollars. Ms. Burger reported that they have two pooled investment opportunities, and that “we invest very conservatively.” The goal is to have the investment “achieve cost of living, plus 4 to 5 percent per year.”

Ms. Burger explained to the merchants and community members present at the meeting that 100th anniversary celebrations would commence “on the auspicious day of 10-10-10” and would consist of the gala on Friday, October 9, as well as a community-wide celebration in Hinds Plaza and inside the library on October 10. “It’s going to be a big party,” she admitted.

Aligning the library with the goals of local business owners, Mr. Burger noted that the institution draws over 850,000 people per year. “We think of ourselves as merchants … merchants who don’t make any money,” she laughed. The ongoing book sale has proved profitable, and any income made goes back into facilitating library operations. Thanks to increased donations, the Annual Book Sale on October 22 to 24 will be the biggest ever, with the addition of a tented space on the plaza.

The gala event will feature a talk by NPR host Terry Gross at the Nassau Presbyterian Church, with a silent auction inside a giant tent on Hinds Plaza, and dining on all three floors inside the library to follow. Dancing out on the plaza will commence after dinner, and the festivities will close out around 11 p.m.

The silent auction involves approximately 35 original pieces by “Princeton notables,” who were approached and asked to write something in their own hand to be framed and auctioned, Ms. Burger said.

On October 10, a 5K run and walk will depart from Hinds Plaza at 8 a.m., and a free community birthday party involving local and area musical acts, children’s book characters, and a giant birthday cake will begin at 1 p.m.

Ms. Burger expressed her gratitude to all those who are assisting and have helped in putting together the library’s centennial celebration. Lauding her staff, she said, “When they come to work every morning, they come because they believe we change lives.”

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