The Friends of the Jackson County Main Library have completed their remarkable effort to raise $1.6 million to outfit the interior of the new library under construction on courthouse hill in Sylva.
The Friends announced this week that a $200,000 grant from federal stimulus money given out by the U.S Rural Development Program had pushed them over the finish line. The Fontana Regional Library system applied for the grant on behalf of the Jackson library project.
Mary Otto Selzer, co-chair of the capital campaign, credited the hard work of volunteers and the generosity of hundreds of donors for the campaign’s success. The grassroots fundraising campaign began in May 2008.
The Jackson County Public Library Complex is a $7 million project to renovate the 1914 Jackson County Courthouse for community uses and build a 20,000-square-foot addition on the back to serve as a new library. It is scheduled to open in the second quarter of 2011.
“This grassroots campaign has been successful because hundreds of individuals, foundations and companies have shown their support through various levels of giving,” Selzer said. “Children have brought in their piggy banks; patrons have joined the Wall of Fame at the library; many young readers, through the Books for Bricks summer reading program, raised over $6,300; merchants have donation boxes on the counters in their businesses; companies wrote generous checks; and grantors have been charitable in providing funds.”
Of the total $1.6 million, about $1.15 million came in the form of large grants from institutions, charities and organizations.
Dr. John Bunn of Sylva, co-chair of the fundraising committee, said the iconic nature of the courthouse that’s even visible when passing Sylva on the highway made it possible to raise money for the project during a recession.
“You’d be talking to a foundation somewhere away from here and they’d say ‘I’ve seen that courthouse!’” Bunn said.
Bunn said the successful fundraising drive allowed for the addition of special features, like the outdoor reading patio that will rival the famous sunset patio at the Grove Park Inn in Asheville.
“They’ll have to eat their hearts out,” Bunn said.
He said the new library and courthouse restoration will be a point of pride for the community.
“If you had guests from out of town you normally wouldn’t say ‘Let me show you our library,’” Bunn said. But Jackson County will be an exception.
— By Giles Morris and Becky Johnson