Enthusiastic generosity

To the Editor:

Although I am still learning, I would like to share some of what I have discovered in my new role as a member of the Jesup Memorial Library board of directors.

Our library is no longer a quiet Gilded Age reading room, nor is it just the book-lending institution it was 25 years ago. It is now a vital community center for the town. Library activities and programs have grown, and community support needs to expand to keep up.

If you are like me, you have assumed that the Jesup is supported by kind and wealthy benefactors. It turns out that my assumption that someone else is paying the bills was only partly true and somewhat out of date. We have an endowment that covers about a quarter of the library’s annual budget. Trusts set up by major supporters provide another 15 percent.

The rest must be raised each year from the town, the book sale, fundraising events and individual and business donations. The library needs your financial support.

Who among us is comfortable giving or asking for money? There are “so many good causes” and “only so much that one person can do.” I know this is true. But what would our town be without our library? I could try to tell you what the Jesup means to this community, to people of all ages and all income levels, but my guess is that you already know this.

What is the right level of support to offer to our wonderful center of culture, knowledge and lifelong learning? The answer will be different for everyone. I’ll use myself as an example. I have for many years responded to the Jesup’s annual fundraising letter by sending in a modest check. I can tell you that I felt pretty good about this each time that I did it. I love the library, and I was happy to contribute. But I wasn’t giving enough. I didn’t know this, and no one pointed it out to me.

Let’s look at the big picture. I envision a future where the endowment, the town and donations each cover one-third of the library’s annual operating budget. From 10 $5,000 donations, 100 $1,000 donations, and several hundred donations of between $15 and $100. Which of these groups is appropriate for you?

I would like to invite those of you who can afford it to become members of the Maria DeWitt Jesup Society by making an annual pledge of $1,000 or more. Obviously, donations of $1,000 are not going to be possible for everyone. Gifts of all amounts are important.

While I am suggesting that we need to assume responsibility for our library’s financial well being, I don’t want folks to contribute reluctantly out of a sense of duty. What is called for here is generosity, generosity with enthusiasm! The library is a shining light in our community, and it deserves our enthusiasm.

Sometimes our fears surrounding money overpower our fundamentally generous natures. Try giving some money away. It helps shrink the fear. It can be liberating and exhilarating. It may change your outlook on life. And it will make you appreciate and enjoy our library even more than you do now.

Tom Crikelair

Acting Treasurer

Jesup Memorial Library

Bar Harbor

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