”Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
— 2 Corinthians 9:7
It’s too bad Searcy doesn’t have a Donald W. Reynolds Foundation when it comes to funding a public library.
Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of philanthropic individuals here who have supported the many non-profits (and have another chance to do so Tuesday for Giving Tuesday), help the needy and contribute to the city. For example, if you take your kids or grandkids to Spring Park to go skating at the synthetic ice rink, you can thank Larry and the late Janett Crain for that.
However, as far as libraries go, it’s hard to beat the $10 million the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation gave to build a $13 million public library in Mountain Home. At last week’s meeting of the White County Public Library Friends Foundation meeting, Dr. Walt Eilers of Terrapin Consulting brought the Donald W. Reynolds Library as an example of what an “awesome” library looks like.
“It made a great difference in Mountain Home with the resources they had,” Eilers said.
If Searcy had had those resources back in 2017, library officials could have built their $13 million dream library. Instead, they asked Searcy voters to pass a 3-mill property tax increase and the voters said no.
Those involved with trying to replace the 9,000-square foot facility on Pleasure Avenue that was built in 1966 have since regrouped, purchasing, with the help of the city, the Searcy Athletic Club for $1.7 million. But to renovate it into the next Searcy Public Library, they are seeking to raise $5.3 million.
Eilers was hired to determine if there was enough support for that and told the library friends foundation that it was achievable with “extensive community outreach.” He said as a basic rule of fundraising, 70 to 75 percent of the funding “must come from six to eight individuals. That’s a rule in stone ... .”
That essentially means that up to $4 million of the cost needs to be paid by a small group of contributors. We’re talking about nearly $500,000 apiece for a group of eight.
White County Public Library Friends Foundation board member Jan Smith said there already has been “some success” finding those major contributors, although “the time will come when we will ask everyone in our community, large or small, to have a part in this because it is a community effort and we want everyone to have a chance to have a role in that.”
We’ve seen what community efforts can accomplish for libraries on a smaller scale in White County with the bank building that was renovated into a community library in El Paso in 2016 and the 3,600-square foot Goff Public Library that was built in 2014 in Beebe.
As a city of 23,880, Searcy’s library needs are quite a bit more substantial, with the new facility providing 33,000 square feet of space to use, so more support than what those smaller libraries received will be needed.
The city may not have a Donald W. Reynolds Foundation to provide that support, but while it would be fantastic if it did, Searcy does not necessarily need one to accomplish this goal. All it needs is a solid foundation of a few of its wealthier community members stepping up to the plate and for others who are able to show their gratitude for that by giving what they can to complete the effort.