While the beginning of the new century has past, the organizers and contributors of the New Century Library Fund still had reason for celebration at the Fairfax County Public Library Foundation’s reception gala, Wednesday, May 24, at Old Town Hall.
The foundation, a separate entity from the Fairfax County Public Library, is a nonprofit corporation that raises money for the county's library branches. The county funds the basic needs of the library, such as books and equipment, but foundation Chairwoman Dr. Janet Kerr-Tener said the foundation's purpose is to better their inventories and create special programs and events.
"The foundation directly and indirectly affects all of the libraries in the county," said Sam Clay, director of the Fairfax County Public Library.
Personal, business and corporate donations keep the foundation alive, since it doesn't host any actual fund-raising events. The fund recently reached the $3 million mark, so the May 24 celebration was put together to thank everyone involved, and to encourage contributors and others to continue supporting the foundation.
Clay said the foundation is not involved with raising capital money to build libraries, so the Burke Centre Library won't see any of the funds until after the branch opens. The new Fairfax City Regional Library, however, isn't a recipient of foundation money, but Clay said the foundation can still positively affect the city library.
“The Friends of the Fairfax City Library made a $50,000 contribution to the library, earmarked specifically for the city library,” said Clay.
THE FOUNDATION has four separate areas of priority for supporting the county library system. Contributors can donate to a specific area of priority, so they have an indirect say in how their money is spent. The Community Programs priority allows for extra events at libraries, such as book signings, seminars, puppet shows and story times. The Virtual Library priority sets out to update software systems and training programs for staff and patrons, said Bobbi Longworth, executive director of the foundation. A third area of concentration is the Friends Scholarship Fund, which provides tuition support to Northern Virginia graduate students pursuing a career in library science, said Duwain Ketch, the scholarship fund’s president.
“Overall, it supports a strong Northern Virginia library system,” he said.
The point of the scholarship, said Ketch, is to have recipients follow through and end up in a Fairfax County library career. The aging library work force keeps demand high to replenish employees with qualified replacements, he said, so the incentive to help students is huge. He said the foundation hopes to extend the scholarship program to undergraduate students in the near future.
The fourth priority area, books and materials, is the most obvious, said Longworth. Each branch receives these materials from the county, she said. The foundation, however, provides extras that the county cannot, making it an asset to each library branch, said Longworth.
The foundation recognized some of the most consistent supporters at the reception.
“The two most generous have been Al and Claire Dwoskin,” said Tener. “They’ve made a series of gifts over a period of years.”
The couple’s series of gifts have exceeded $700,000 over a course of about 10 years, said Tener. Al Dwoskin was there to accept a special award of recognition at the event, and said he and his wife enjoy seeing their money well spent.
“We felt the focus on libraries was a great way to give something back to the community,” said Al Dwoskin. “The success gives us an immense degree of satisfaction.”
As owners of the Landsdowne Shopping Center in Kingstowne, the Dwoskins have donated a large share of their profits from the center to the Fairfax County library system, said Alice Starr, former chair of the foundation. The couple has specifically donated to the Kingstowne Library, the most used library in the entire system, said Starr. They have also given to the foundation as a whole, providing money for all 21 county branches.
"Both Claire and I are great fans of libraries," said Al Dwoskin.
Tener also recognized Starr, who traveled from her part-time home in Malibu, Calif., as a huge player in the fund's $3 million success because of her work as chair during the fund's inception.
"As a result of the initial momentum, we reached our [$3 million] goal ahead of schedule," said Tener.
The library board presents a menu of requests to the foundation each summer, said Clay. The foundation can then look at the funds and determine how to finance what is necessary.