Michelle Zhiqing Yang / Sun Staff Photographer

After securing funds, Tompkins County Public Library hopes to enact an array of new community programs, including one to bring books to homebound Ithacans.

January 20, 2020

Cornell Commits $100K to Tompkins County Public Library

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Cornell will commit $100,000 to the Tompkins County Public Library, further bolstering its decades long commitment to the local library, the University announced in Jan. 8 press release.

The University will give the money to the library in $20,000 a year installments over a five year period. While Cornell has donated $20,000 for the last several years, the University’s five-year commitment marks the first long-term financial commitment to the library, according to Joel Malina, Vice President for University Relations.

Malina said that when the TCPL Foundation — an organization that works to garner community support on behalf of the library — brought the proposal to him, he did not hesitate to approve it.

The Foundation regularly seeks financial support from Cornell through formal requests submitted to Cornell’s University Relations office. In their proposals, the TCPL Foundation lays out the ways that the library will leverage its donation.

With this particular request, the TCPL Foundation said that the library would use the money for their “access and outreach initiatives,” according to Suzanne Smith Jablonski, the executive director of the Tompkins County Public Library Foundation.

Such recent initiatives have included easing the process of applying for a library card without providing a physical address, and, last year, entirely eliminating late fees, Jablonski said.

The public library, originally called the Cornell Free Library, was founded by Ezra Cornell in 1864, alongside the founding of the University, according to Jablonksi. In 1967, the library officially became the county’s public library, according to the Tompkins County Public Library website. Though it receives public funding, Cornell has continued to provide financial support since the library’s public chartering.

Cornell was also one of the lead contributors toward the library’s move to their current location on Green Street nearly 20 years ago, and with the University’s support, the library has been able to do renovations for spaces that are better geared toward hosting events.

“A lot of the work we’re doing now to remove barriers has to do with building relationships,” Jablonski said. “We’re trying to look at who is currently at the library. If you were to walk in the door here, would you see yourself reflected back?”

With the continuation of funding, library administrators have plans to execute a variety of new community programs in the near future, including a program to bring books to homebound individuals in the area and work with inmates in the Tompkins County prison system.

“Knowing that we have funds for a multi-year period to enable these kinds of creative approaches is really powerful,” Jablonski said.

According to Malina, Cornellians will benefit too, saying that he sees the public library as a rich opportunity for students to engage with the community beyond the University’s campus.

“Libraries are great places for mentorship, providing assistance for children struggling with reading who are not interested in books,” Malina said. “The library is a place to expand your mind, and to think about your place in the world.”