The Gloversville Public Library on Thursday announced a $1 million donation, the largest since the start of its capital campaign in 2014.
The donation, from the Lucius N. Littauer Foundation in New York City, brings the campaign within about $1 million of its roughly $5 million private fundraising goal, said library Director Barbara Madonna.
The gift was announced in a ceremony at the library by Pulitzer Prize-winning author and Gloversville native Richard Russo, who serves as honorary chairman of the Gloversville Public Library Capital Campaign.
“When I last stood here, maybe a year ago, it felt like we were, to me, in a deep valley looking straight up at Mount Everest — the fundraising mountain that we needed to climb,” he said. With the announcement of the $1 million donation, he said, “We have climbed higher and farther than almost anyone could have predicted.”
Russo was standing in that spot last fall when he kicked off the fundraising campaign, helping to raise its profile and galvanize donors. A New York Times article about his efforts in March helped further the cause, he said.
Madonna said the library is seeking to raise between $5 and $5.5 million in private donations, not counting grants, to undertake the first comprehensive renovation in the building’s 111-year history. The library, one of more than 2,000 built through the philanthropy of steel baron Andrew Carnegie, is still running on its original heating, plumbing and electrical systems, all of which will be updated in the renovation.
“There’s a lot of challenges that happen with a historic building such as this, but the beauty is really worth the effort,” said state Sen. Hugh Farley, R-Niskayuna, during the ceremony. “It’s amazing that everyone wants to save and promote and nurture this magnificent jewel of Fulton County.”
The library received a $150,000 New York State Public Library Construction grant this summer to install an elevator in the building, which requires the construction of an addition.
It previously received a $200,000 grant to replace all the windows in the building. Madonna said she’s working on another grant to upgrade the library’s heating system, and has applied for funding through the Mohawk Valley Regional Economic Development Center, as well.
The entire renovation is expected to cost somewhere around $7 million, she said. Once the funds are raised, the building will have to be closed for about 18 to 24 months for renovations, during which time library functions will be moved to a temporary location.
The Lucius N. Littauer Foundation was founded by Gloversville-born Lucius N. Littauer, a businessman, member of Congress and philanthropist, according to a news release from the library.
Christine Pesses, capital campaign co-chair, said campaign leaders first approached the foundation about two years ago.
“We had a very strong plan to bring to them and a very strong case for why their support of this project would have a major impact on not only the success of our capital campaign, but on the revitalization of our community,” she said Thursday. “Our information showed them that the library project is not taking place in a vacuum, but in a community that is really trying to bootstrap its way out of hard times.”
In addition to infrastructure renovations, the campaign will also fund the creation of a 6,000-square-foot youth center on the lower level, which is currently unused, that will be equipped with modern multimedia learning materials.
In a statement, read Thursday by Russo, Lucius N. Littauer Foundation Program Officer Alan Divack said the foundation viewed the renovation campaign as “a unique opportunity to have a positive impact on the lives of people in a community that remains important to us.”
Pesses described the library’s work in pursuing the donation as a “long, challenging and wonderful journey,” which included foundation leaders visiting Gloversville and talking with city officials.
“We were impressed by the knowledge, thoughtfulness and commitment of all involved,” the foundation wrote in a statement, “and we are convinced that the library project has the potential to be a key factor in the revitalization of Gloversville.”