Where it's at?

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December 1, 2003 // UPDATED 11:07 am - April 30, 2007
By: Sarah McKenzie
Sarah McKenzie

Central Library nets $6.1 million in donations with some to go

As of Nov. 18, fund-raisers had secured $6.1 million in pledges for Downtown's new Central Library -- a sum they say puts them "on track" to meet a $15 million fund-raising goal for the $136 million building scheduled to open in 2006.

The library's previously stated goal was $8 million by the end of November. Fund-raising consultant Randi Yoder told the Library Implementation Committee Nov. 18 that she's "optimistic" the campaign could find the other $1.9 million by month's end. To date, 175 donors have made gifts.

"We are so close," she said, adding the campaign has yet to hear from some potential donors.

While the overall goal remains $15 million, the panel shepherding the project -- which includes members of the City Council, Library Board, Mayor R.T. Rybak and citizens -- hopes for at least $10 million. In a memo, Project Coordinator Richard Johnson wrote that the capital campaign's steering committee is "confident the campaign will be successful and they will achieve a minimum of $10 million in pledges before the project is completed."

New budget documents released at the Nov. 18 meeting lists $10 million in donations as a "proposed worst-case" scenario.

The Library Board recently voted to pledge $2.1 million toward the project if fund-raising falls short. The Board would tap vested trust funds donated to the library system in the event of a shortfall. Taxpayer dollars would not be used.

Possible trust-fund use comes at time when the library is short of operating funds. Many community libraries will be open just three or four days a week in 2004.

Library Board member Diane Hofstede said the board is confident with the progress of the fund-raising campaign. "This is merely a backup plan," she said.

The committee also approved a list of library amenities to defer if there is a shortfall. Deferrals include a portion of a compact shelving system and an automated materials handling system. Potential savings total $1.4 million.

The items will be listed as alternates on a bid package to be released in January.

The list serves as a contingency plan for the panel. As of now, the amenities are expected to become part of the new library.

The committee had reviewed a longer list of possible project deferrals in recent months, but members said many items, such as special collections, were too important to cut.

Rybak said he had concerns six months ago about the fund-raising goal but said the update has reassured him that the goal is a realistic one. He urged fund-raisers to stay vigilant about meeting the $15 million target.

"Some hard work has caught up with our dreams for the library," he said. "But don't let up now."