Indy Public Library Foundation | Indianapolis Public Library

IndyPL Foundation's Digital Archive

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50th Anniversary Logo

In 2019, The Indianapolis Public Library Foundation celebrates 50 years! While tax dollars pay for the Library's staffing, collections and other basics, the Library Foundation seeks private support to nurture patrons' love of learning through engaging programs, cutting-edge services and inspirational facilities. Since 1969, the Foundation has raised more than $76 million for the Library.

The Library has always benefited from private support. In 1873, its opening day collection included 3,600 books gifted by the Indianapolis Library Association. Residents donated materials, artworks and funds. In 1909, Library Director Eliza Browning received $120,000 from Andrew Carnegie to build six branch libraries. Two of them, East Washington and Spades Park, are still libraries today.

In 1956, Indiana native Harold Sander became Director of The Indianapolis Public Library. He came from Roanoke Public Library, where there was a library foundation. He wanted to have one here but had to wait until 1968, when the Library separated from Indianapolis Public Schools. The Foundation incorporated on February 9, 1969 and held its first meeting on February 26, 1969.

Raymond Gnat became Library Director in 1972. He established some of the Foundation's most enduring initiatives. The book sale, now called Indy Library Store, has raised $7.5 million since 1972. In 1978, the Library established the Marian McFadden Memorial Lecture in memory of a previous Library Director. This annual series brings prominent authors to Indianapolis for a free public forum. In 1980, the Foundation began funding a lecture series for distinguished African-American authors. Celebrating diversity continues to be a priority for the Foundation.

Later in the 1980s, the Foundation undertook two campaigns. The Recovery campaign (1984-1985) raised funds to restore Central Library's main Reading Room, now called the Simon Reading Room. The campaign allowed for a thorough cleaning of the ceiling. After removing decades of soot, the iconic artwork was visible once again. In 1987, the Light up a Life campaign raised funds for literacy, lifelong learning and children's initiatives.

By the early 1990s, the Foundation Board decided it was time to hire a full-time staff member. Then, fundraising was emerging as a profession. In November 1992, Danny Dean became the Library Foundation's first Executive Director. During his first six years, the Foundation's yearly revenues doubled and assets tripled. The Foundation expanded funding for Summer Reading and other Library programs.

Between 2000 and 2008, the Foundation's Board and growing staff took on more campaigns. The Foundation and Children's Museum of Indianapolis built an endowment for InfoZone, the Library's branch in the Museum. The Imagine campaign raised $43 million to transform Central Library. The Learning for a Lifetime campaign raised a $4.5 million endowment for early childhood, lifelong learning and cultural programs.

With those campaigns completed, the Foundation expanded support for programs. From 2009 to 2018, the Foundation ran the Eugene & Marilyn Glick Indiana Authors Award. It was the Foundation's annual fundraising event. In 2012, the Herbert Simon Family Foundation endowed the Library's Early Literacy Specialist position in Mr. Simon's name. Since 2014, the Foundation has raised more than $2 million for Digital Indy. This beloved Library resource now includes the digitized records of 60 educational, civic, arts and community organizations. It serves researchers worldwide and is an invaluable resource for Indianapolis' upcoming bicentennial.

On December 31, 2015, Danny Dean stepped down from the President position. He remained on staff as Major Gifts & Donor Liaison until 2017 to support his successor, Roberta Jaggers. The Foundation now raises about $2 million per year for beloved Library traditions and exciting new ventures. Examples include the Center for Black Literature & Culture and an effort to increase Internet access by loaning mobile HotSpots and Google Chromebooks. The Foundation looks forward to what the next 50 years holds!

Please explore this collection to learn more about the Foundation's 50-year history. There are oral histories, correspondence, photographs, fundraising materials, newsletters and publicity for Foundation-funded Library programs (some provided courtesy of The Harmon House). For more information about the Foundation and how to support your library, visit