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Anonymous donor gives a big boost to Great Falls Public Library

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Posted at 6:05 PM, Oct 18, 2023
and last updated 2023-10-19 10:28:40-04

GREAT FALLS — In June, Great Falls voters supported a library levy to help with operating expenses. But the money approved has yet to make its way into the library’s coffers. An anonymous donor has stepped up to help bridge the financial gap.

With dollars designated for the bookmobile, Shakespeare in the Parks, an annual bookathon and more, the Great Falls Public Library Foundation operates as a fundraising arm for the Great Falls Library.

“The mission and purpose of the foundation is to use the dollars that are raised through our community and through other granting organizations to provide services and opportunities for our community that aren't covered under a standard library budget,” said Great Falls Public Library Foundation Executive Director Brianne Laurin.

“The foundation board is totally separate and it's a501c3 organization. The Great Falls Public Library Board is a community board,” said Great Falls Public Library Foundation Board Chair Sue Warren.

The foundation is looking at the feasibility of running a capital campaign to help fund projects not covered by the recently approved library levy

“We'd like to be able to update our building and have some remodel,” said Laurin. “Our elevators are out of date or bathrooms are not ADA accessible. So there's some really big capital needs.”

Recently, the foundation received $300,000 gift from a long-time, anonymous donor in the form of a donor restricted gift.

“That means that the donor chooses what they want. That family or individual wants that specific gift to benefit,” said Warren.

Laurin said the donor understood the need for improvements but was also aware the library would need money now to help offset a funding gap brought on by money from the levy not being realized until December and the loss of money from the city’s general fund.

“The donor said, “I'd love to make it early if that would help you.” We rejoiced, jumped for joy,” said Laurin. “That way the library isn't in a situation where they're needing to take a short-term loan or have any sort of problem meeting the operational needs that they have.”

“The voters in our community did support the library, and I think that's what the library is dealing with,” said Warren. “So now their job is to implement that. Ours is to stand on the side of that and decide how we can support those programs and services that are requested.”

Laurin says this isn’t the first six figure gift the foundation has received and likely won’t be the last.

She is optimistic a capital campaign will be launched, and the recent donor’s gift will be reallocated for that purpose.

“So, this is an early capital campaign focus gift that really just has a sweet double bonus of being able to help support the library,” said Laurin.

If the library chooses to embark on a capital campaign, the donation will likely play a role in how much the campaign would ask for.

“This kind of support really matters for other granting foundations or many foundations throughout the state and throughout the country that would make grants of this type whose mission is to support library services,” said Laurin. “And one of their requirements is also to know that there's a community that stands behind their library that would support their library.”