On May 25 the Friends of the Jackson County Main Library marked the completion of their astonishing two-year fundraising drive, reaching their goal of $1.6 million to outfit the interior of the new library on Courthouse Hill in Sylva.
Jane Smith, president of the Friends group, put into perspective the effort to raise the money in the worst economy in recent memory.
“It is so amazing, because there were people at the beginning who said, ‘You can’t do this. Not around here,’” Smith said.
Kathy Proctor, chair of the Fontana Regional Library Board, accepted a $200,000 grant from the USDA’s Rural Library Fund on behalf of the Friends. The grant, which required a $1.2 million local match, pushed the fundraising drive past its $1.6 million target to a grand total of $1.726 million so far.
The Friends have raised $1.2 million for furniture, fixtures and equipment at the library and the $200,000 will be added to that total. In addition, the Friends raised $225,985 for the library’s collection and another $100,000 to offset costs association with the campaign.
The USDA grant came as the result of cooperation between the Fontana Regional Library and the federal representatives of Western North Carolina, including Rep. Heath Shuler, D-Waynesville, and Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C.
Freddie Harrill, Hagan’s representative at the event, praised the local fundraising committee for meeting its goals.
“Projects like these are economic drivers for small towns,” Harrill said.
Bill Hobbs, community programs director for USDA Rural Development, said he was happy to deliver the $200,000 check.
“We are tickled to death to bring this check to y’all,” Hobbs said. “We can’t wait to come back when the project is complete.”
Mary Otto Selzer, chair of the Friends’ fundraising committee, said the group would continue to raise money for collection materials at the new library.
“Not too long ago, we realized $100,000 doesn’t go very far for a collection so there are still steps to climb,” Selzer said.
Selzer took time to thank the volunteers at the Friends of Jackson Library Bookstore in Sylva, who contributed $155,000 and countless hours to the campaign.
“That’s the little engine that keeps the library offering great services,” Selzer said.
The Jackson County Public Library Complex is a $7 million building project that includes the construction of a 20,000-square-foot library and the renovation of the historic Jackson County Courthouse, which will be used as a community resource facility and cultural center for the county.