Vicksburg Responsible for the High Quality of its Library

Jack Hopkins
Jack Hopkins, formerly head of the Kalamazoo Foundation leads a strategic planning session for the Vicksburg Community Schools Foundation.

By Eric Hansen, Vicksburg Library Head of Circulation and Reference

The Vicksburg District Library receives a vast amount of support from the community in tax dollars, donations of DVDs and books, and volunteer hours provided by patrons from teens to senior citizens.

There is at least one good example of both the tangible and intangible support that the community provides to the library. It is the story of fundraising for the library’s addition from 1984 to 1986. Jack Hopkins, the former president of the Kalamazoo Foundation, oversaw the challenge grant that helped fund the approximately 8,000-square-foot addition to the library.

In 1984, the library was just 2,000 square feet. The project was intended to increase the size to 10,772 square feet. At the time, the community’s investment amounted to $3.23 per person, with 11,530 taxpayers contributing. That $3.23 made patrons part owners of 40,000 books, not to mention other resources and Interlibrary loan privileges. The new space would add amenities that patrons still use, such as a barrier-free entrance and a meeting room accessible while the rest of the library is closed.

Hopkins explained that the Kalamazoo Foundation awarded the grant expecting that the community would match its value. He was surprised at how fully the community took responsibility for fundraising. Ultimately, the community raised approximately $400,000 to meet the expansion goals.

Hopkins witnessed professional tradesmen donating time and families participating in bake sale fundraising. He found it gratifying that his office received a host of grateful postcards and letters thanking the Kalamazoo Foundation. But it is also important that as early as 1984, the community worked to improve this shared resource through independent means. Local students worked and learned job skills at the same time. For instance, Jim Bach, a local contractor and building trades teacher, marshalled students to move a house away from the site of the construction, complete a new basement, and place floor joists. In addition, students attending a practical landscaping class completed the landscaping for the project.

Community involvement left a good impression on Hopkins. He spent 25 years with the Kalamazoo Community Foundation, an organization that he describes as being dedicated to promoting the, “health, happiness, and welfare of citizens in the county.” Hopkins authoritatively described a wide range of social, economic, and educational programs that the Kalamazoo Foundation had funded, with the Vicksburg District Library comparing favorably to the many others who have received grants.

Editions of the library newsletter printed from 1984 to 1986 dramatize some ways that Vicksburg citizens assisted with raising $400,000. There are records of donations ranging from $0.04 provided by a small girl up to the Vicksburg Foundation’s allocation of $100,000. A local woman, Ginger Duensing, created a successful program of collecting labels from brand-name goods and sending them to companies for refunds. The Library Building Fund committee, chaired by Tim Moore, began soliciting recipes in 1984 and printed a cookbook in 1986 to raise proceeds. The Ladies Library Auxiliary also hosted a style show bazaar with proceeds going to the Building Fund. The auxiliary’s Christmas Bazaar of 1984-85 generated more than $2,500 and much of the stock sold was donated by citizens. As of the Spring 1985 newsletter, the total raised was $325,000 with approximately $100,000 of that coming from individual donations under $300. By the fall-winter 1985-1986 edition the community had raised $375,000.

This sort of grassroots care for the library has continued into the present. Contemporary examples of community support include the annual book sale that has become famous within the area. That book sale raises more than $2,000 per year to fund various programs, and the stock sold at the annual event comes primarily from patron donations of items. The library receives hundreds of book and DVD donations each year, and these keep down purchasing costs. Currently, citizens are showing significant interest in volunteering to help found a Community Literacy Center in conjunction with the Kalamazoo Literacy Foundation.

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