|Oshkosh Public Library, Foundation to steward private funds for public good
"The library and the Foundation are widely trusted institutions in this community. We think that our partnership strengthens both organizations and will be powerful in ways we cannot yet predict."
– Jeff Gilderson-Duwe, library director
Imagine Oshkosh in 1890. As a bustling lumber town, the city had a lot to offer: established industry created job opportunities, transportation was easy via waterways and highways, higher education was attainable locally, and by all accounts, there was an active and engaged citizenry. But, there was not a public library. It took a philanthropist's vision to change that.
Several charitable gifts and a city bond issue later, the current Oshkosh Public Library was constructed, forging a tradition of donor support that continues to enhance library service for the Oshkosh community in the spirit of the private benefactors who made it all possible.
For more than a century, generous donors – whose gifts range from pennies to millions of dollars – have helped the library fulfill its mission: To help people find knowledge resources; provide free access to information; preserve local history; and create a vibrant community gathering place.
In 2014, the library took an important step forward as a new partnership with the Foundation brought dozens of charitable trust funds under Foundation management.
Donors now have new ways to support this vital institution through five charitable endowments supporting collections, facility and equipment, programming, technology and general library development.
"The promise in this partnership lies in linking two organizations that are recognized for their integrity and stewardship of the community's public and private resources. It's a great partnership," says Jeff Gilderson-Duwe, library director.
The library has become a vital community hub that annually sees more than 400,000 people walk through its doors to check out more than 1 million items, gain knowledge from staff and resources, use computers and attend community meetings. Digital devices allow tens of thousands of library users to remotely check out ebooks and audio books, and reference digital collections that showcase local history. Community outreach brings thousands of children and families into the library to learn and grow.
Gilderson-Duwe says the Foundation's large, diverse investment pool will allow the endowments to grow much more robustly than in the past, and gain exposure to a broader range of donors that would not have been possible. Donors can be assured their legacies will strengthen the library, he says.
"Many of our past donors have wanted assurances that their gifts would build upon the city's investment in the library, not replace it," says Gilderson-Duwe. "The Oshkosh Public Library Board has diligently followed those wishes, using donated funds to enhance excellence – as 'frosting on the cake' as one donor put it."
Donors can support the Oshkosh Public Library through gifts to five different funds. Follow the links to donate online:
Oshkosh Public Library Collection Improvement Fund
Oshkosh Public Library Development Fund
Oshkosh Public Library Facility Improvement Fund
Oshkosh Public Library Programming Support Fund
Oshkosh Public Library Technology Fund
Related article: Foundation works to strengthen nonprofits
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