Why Private Funding of Public Libraries is Important
As public libraries are increasingly constrained by municipal budgets, private funding for public libraries is critically important.
Private funding of public libraries:
- results in change, making possible experimentation, innovation, and adaptation of roles to changing needs;
- provides the margin of excellence that makes good libraries great libraries;
- provides the opportunity to leverage public dollars;
- spurs collaborations and partnerships; and creates a higher level of responsiveness to needs and opportunities.
Through private donations to the Library Foundation, the Louisville Free Public Library has been able to provide programs and services and to pursue capital projects that would not be possible otherwise. Private funding is responsible for
- the Iroquois Project, an outreach program targeted to the immigrant community in south Louisville;
- the Digital Media Initiative, providing the library with thousands of CDs, DVDs, and audiobooks;
- the Technology 2000 campaign, providing the library with hundreds of public-access computers, software, and electronic research tools;
- the Summer Reading program, the library’s largest and longest-running program, reaching more than 50,000 annually;
- scholarships for library employees;
- upgraded furnishings and technology for the new Newburg branch library;
- restoration and renovation of the historic Main Library, which made possible highly successful partnerships with JCPS adult education and the University of Louisville;
- upgraded furnishings and technology for the new Fairdale branch and the renovated and expanded Shawnee branch; and
- capital support for the construction of the Southwest Regional Library, South Central Regional Library, and Northeast Regional Library (currently in planning/design phase).
Operating within a governmental context can be slow and cumbersome — and usually is. Private gifts to the Library Foundation enable the library to be “nimble,” to take advantage of strategic opportunities as they arise, whether expected or unexpected. Government is risk-averse and generally preserves the status quo. Private funding allows library leadership to be bold and responsive and to pursue experimentation and change.