Library gets gift of almost $1 million [UPDATED]Published 11:00am Tuesday, June 21, 2011 Updated 11:53am Tuesday, June 21, 2011
A generous gift of almost $1 million has put the Fergus Falls Library on track to finally get its expansion.
The gift, given in the will of longtime Fergus Falls resident Elizabeth Cowles, leaves the library $932,765.62, with the possibility for $20,000 to $40,000 more down the road. The council approved a resolution from the Fergus Falls Library Board that puts the money toward a library expansion, with additional funding to be procured later (a 2008 estimate put a library expansion at about $5.5 million).
Though Library Director Erin Smith made it plain that the city was not going to start working on a library expansion right now, she said the donation from Cowles lays an excellent groundwork for the future plans, which will likely see the library expand across Hampden Avenue.
Cowles died March 19, 2007, at the age of 95. The library was made aware of her will at the time, but Smith said no one was aware of how much money was there.
“It was originally set up as a trust and then recently, May 11, 2011, there was an order by the district court to disseminate the funds,” she said, adding that to say library staff was excited was an “understatement.” The library received the check in late May.
Cowles’ husband Henry died several years before her. Smith said the Cowles moved to Fergus Falls from Ohio in the 1940s after Henry got a job with Otter Tail Power. The couple was known by friends not as Henry and Elizabeth, but Hank and Sis. The two were active in the community and active in the library. Smith said many longtime library staffers remember their humor and dedication to the library’s goals.
“Together, Hank and Sis loved the library,” she told the council.
Smith said it’s hard to know when a library project will really get off the ground.
“It’s hard to say at this point with the economic and political climate,” she commented. “I definitely see this as hopefully a catalyst for a future building project.”
For now, she is researching other library building projects and planning to start putting out some community surveys and other opinion gauges sometime in “the not-too-distant future.”
“The next step we see us taking is establishing some more community involvement in the process,” she said.