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Donors step up to secure San Diego's new Central Library

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San Diego’s new Central Library is filled with stories. One of the most interesting might be the story behind its planning, construction and completion. This story details how the community came together to provide the region with a world-class new home for literacy and learning.

“We are so grateful to the thousands of San Diegans who stepped forward,” said Library Foundation CEO Jay Hill.

“Our capital fundraising goal is clearly in sight. No other community has raised this amount of funding for a public library project, and we are inspired by San Diego’s support of literacy and learning for all," Hill said.

Hill said additional opportunities exist to support the new Central Library and the entire library system, with more information at SupportMyLibrary.org or by calling (619) 238-6638.

The fiscally responsible Central Library project is built on a partnership effectively mixing public and private financing. Funding for the $184.9 million new Central Library project includes $80 million from the city’s former downtown development group, Centre City Development Corporation; $20 million from the State Library; and $20 million from the San Diego Unified School District, for a 40-year lease of the library’s sixth and seventh floors for a new charter high school.

Private, charitable sources provided the final piece of the funding puzzle -- $64.9 million for construction and an additional $10 million toward operations — nearly 40 percent of the project’s total. This historic level of private support means the library was built with no new taxes, bonds or even one cent of San Diego’s General Fund money.

The foundation thanked Joan and Irwin Jacobs for their anchor gift. In 2010, they donated $20 million to the project -- $15 million toward construction and $5 million toward library operations. This July, the Jacobses made an additional $10 million matching gift.

“This new home for literacy and learning is possible because of the generosity, commitment and leadership of Joan and Irwin Jacobs. What they have done and continue to do for San Diego is remarkable and inspiring,” Hill said.

“We now look forward to sharing with many in our community a beautiful new library complex complete with books, art, media, computers and software, with librarians to provide assistance, and with public spaces, an auditorium, and, uniquely, an active high school,” Irwin Jacobs said.

Hill noted that the Jacobses were among more than 3,000 individuals, businesses and community organizations that supported the library. Other key major donors include the Price family. The iconic eighth-floor reading room is named the Helen Price Reading Room to honor the family’s contribution. The ninth floor houses some of the library’s most unique items, including the Wangeheim Collection in the Hervey Family Rare Books Room in honor of the Hervey family’s support.

Darlene Shiley donated $2.2 million to the library project, including a $1.2 million contribution dramatically presented at a library event last week. The soaring ninth floor Special Events Suite is named to honor Darlene Marcos Shiley’s gift in memory of her husband, Donald Shiley. Additional library spaces honor philanthropic support from Denny Sanford, Donald C. and Elizabeth M. Dickinson, David Copley and Pauline Foster, who contributed in memory of her husband Stanley.

Local business leaders also made major commitments to the project, including Qualcomm, Manpower, Bank of America-Merrill Lynch, Union Bank, Wells Fargo and the San Diego Padres, with several companies making their largest local contribution ever.

“The entire community has played a part in supporting this library,” said Library Foundation Vice Chair and Library Commissioner Katie Sullivan. Sullivan led a successful “Buy-a-Brick” community campaign, in which more than 2,500 private donors purchased more than 3,100 inscribed bricks ranging from $150 to $1,000.

Since its founding in 2002, the San Diego Public Library Foundation has generated more than $120 million in private support to foster an excellent free public library system. Working with the Friends of the San Diego Public Library, the foundation has provided funding to help build or expand eight branch libraries in addition to the new Central Library. The foundation is already beginning its next chapter in furthering its support of the whole San Diego Public Library system.

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