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Foundation History

The Beginnings


  • Tompkins County Public Library Foundation established and mandated with providing fundraising to maintain TCPL's stability, to assist in achieving new goals and directions, and to provide financial management of Library funds 

  • First year-end appeal

  • Establishment of first endowed book fund

  • Professional staff hired to oversee the Foundation's work

  • Sponsorships and donations secured in support of Sunday operating hours

Campaign for the New Library


  • Park Foundation grants Tompkins County $2.5 million in order to enable the purchase of 101 East Green Street, formerly a Woolworth's, to be the future TCPL 

  • A $1 million goal is set for the campaign

  • The campaign raises, in total, $1,732,550 

  • Key gifts include: an anonymous foundation ($250,000), BorgWarner ($200,000), Thaler/Howell Foundation ($200,000), and an anonymous board challenge grant ($100,000)

  • In November, 2000, TCPL opens its doors in its new location 

  • The Foundation wins the American Library Association Gale Research Company Financial Development Award for the campaign

Libraries are an expression of, and a catalyst to, a healthy civic culture. TCPL is an extraordinary public library system, entirely appropriate to the demands and desires of the extraordinary civic life of Tompkins County. 

--Dale B. Johnson, Library Foundation Board of Directors

Growth of the Foundation and the 21st Century Library Campaign


  • Suzanne Smith Jablonski is hired as the Foundation's first full-time executive director

  • Fundraising and friendraising initiatives are established, including the Inside Story event, Library Lovers Month, the Adopt-a-Periodical program, and the READATHON

  • Additional professional staff are hired 

  • The 21st Century Library Campaign launches publicly in 2014, with a goal of $2.75 million

  • The Campaign concludes, having raised $3,590,205

  • Key gifts include: Edward Smith bequest ($534,000), State and Municipal Facilities Grant sponsored by NYS Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton ($300,000), Thaler/Howell Foundation challenge grant ($200,000), Elissa Cogan and Barry Chester ($250,000 planned gift intention), and Anonymous ($200,000 planned gift intention)

  • Tom Colbert, 21st Century Library Campaign co-chair and longtime board member,  receives the Association of Fundraising Professionals' Volunteer Fundraiser of the Year award

The Foundation Continues


  • Foundation staff continues to grow

  • The READATHON event draws more readers, donors, and funds

  • The Inside Story event is held inside TCPL, giving attendees an after-hours peek

  • Library Literati events are launched, beginning with the Speakeasy in 2019

  • During the Covid-19 pandemic, two READATHONs and two Library Literati Trivia Events are held virtually, to much acclaim


Our 21st Century Library fundraising campaign included the creation of an 8-foot by 8-foot LEGO model of our reimagined library (pictured at right). Being able to help create and visualize the changes to come really got our community fired up to improve TCPL's services, spaces, and collections. The first project of its kind in a public library in the country, the TCPL LEGO Build brought together library lovers and LEGO enthusiasts of all ages. 

The 21st Century Library Campaign

The 21st Century Library Campaign raised money to support TCPL and its changing needs. To learn more about each project, click the name to be directed to the TCPL website for more information:

None of these renovations and expansions would be possible without our donors. To see a list of donor names, go to our comprehensive list here. We are grateful for your support.

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LEGO model of TCPL being unveiled, 2016. 

21st Century Library Campaign community sponsors

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