The long partnership between Cornell and Tompkins County Public Library has entered a new chapter.
The university reaffirmed its commitment to serving the community by extending its longtime contribution to TCPL, pledging $100,000 over the next five years.
University representatives and library staff gathered for the Jan. 7 announcement in TCPL’s Ezra Cornell Reading Room, a fitting location for recognizing the partnership between the university and the library. In attendance was university trustee Ezra Cornell ’70, the great-great-great grandson of university and library founder Ezra Cornell.
Joel Malina, vice president for university relations, praised TCPL as “one of our community’s most precious resources,” and one that lives up to its stated vision for a library “where everyone can belong and find joy in learning, discovery and personal growth.”
Malina emphasized the importance of “everyone,” which, he said, was reflected in the library’s 38,000 registered borrowers, its annual circulation of 800,000 books and other materials, and the wide range of programming that benefits every demographic in Tompkins County, from toddlers to senior citizens.
Malina commended the library for being a model of inclusivity, broad engagement and education for all.
“We are so fortunate to have this library as a base and a resource for day-to-day life,” Malina said. “We appreciate countywide residents, including Cornellians, who volunteer here on a regular basis, as well as all who work here and maintain and enhance this inclusive and essential community hub for everyone.”
The histories of Cornell and TCPL have been intertwined since their very beginnings, when Ezra Cornell founded the library – then called Cornell Free Library – in 1864, a year before he founded the university, said TCPL Foundation Executive Director Suzanne Smith Jablonski.
“From those earliest days, Cornell has been a wonderful partner and supporter of the library’s work. When the library first launched Sunday hours in the mid-’90s, Cornell was there to sponsor a day,” Smith Jablonski said. “And as we celebrate our two decades in this location, we remember Cornell’s leadership gift to help convert this former Woolworth’s into the vibrant downtown center we now enjoy. The move to this facility gave us the chance to celebrate the university’s support and our shared roots through the naming of this very room.”
Cornell has helped support library programming, she said, through annual contributions, faculty lectures, volunteerism, project partnerships and activities, and by investing in TCPL’s 21st Century Library campaign.
TCPL Director Annette Birdsall expressed gratitude for the university’s ongoing support and said the library is renewing its outreach efforts by: working with Foodnet Meals on Wheels to provide books by mail; nurturing community partnerships on the hill and in the town; and looking for additional opportunities to remove barriers to access. A mobile library that will work with rural libraries in the county is being planned.
“We strive to meet and celebrate the aspirations of our community and foster opportunities for people all ages to discover, connect and create,” Birdsall said. “We do this because of [Cornell’s] ongoing support.”