Consultant: Library plans feasible 

Final concept design image of Sawyer Free Library front viewCourtesy of Tracy Davis

The city's Sawyer Free Library has a feasible fundraising plan for its building project. 

The Gloucester Lyceum and Sawyer Free Library Board of Trustees unanimously voted Wednesday to accept the findings of the campaign feasibility study for the renovated and expanded Sawyer Free Library that was presented by the Minnesota-based consulting firm Library Strategies. 

"The positive results from the campaign feasibility report is tremendous news for us all," said John T. Brennan, president of the library's Board of Trustees.

The report's findings confirmed that the library can conduct a successful capital campaign after it completes the establishment of a library foundation. 

"Library Strategies does not recommend proceeding with a campaign at this time," according to the official report. "Instead of launching a campaign, we recommend moving forward with creating a library foundation."

Library Strategies' retired director Sue Hall will be helping the Library in the four-month process of hiring a development director for the Sawyer Library Foundation.

The total budget of the search for a development director will cost the Library $18,000. 

The board has been discussing with community leaders and local government officials about how they too can be involved in the process. 

The foundation's role, in collaboration with the library's administration and trustees, will be to raise the money needed for the renovation, expansion, and long-term enhancement of the city's library. 

"We do need to have a professional fundraising arm for the library," board member Simon Paddock said. 

Once the foundation is developed, acting as a separate 501(c)(3) charitable organization, Library Strategies advised that it begin fundraising immediately and decide on a time to launch the capital campaign. 

"It has made the Library Board even more motivated to continue working to realize the next exciting chapter of the Sawyer Free Library," Brennan said. 

Studying the feasibility of fundraising

In 2018, the Sawyer Free Library and Gloucester Lyceum hired Library Strategies Consulting Group to assess the possibility of fundraising campaign for the library building project.

As part of the study, Library Strategies reviewed background materials and conducted 30 interviews with community leaders to assess the readiness of the community to put forward $19.6 million in private dollars toward the $28.6 million project. 

"We appreciate all those who participated in the feasibility study and have been a part of establishing the new foundation," Brennan said. 

Key findings in the study confirmed that their project goals are attainable due to the library's positive reputation and effective administration.

Interviews concluded the Dale Avenue location is ideal and the architect's newest plans were well received.

"People see the need for a beautiful and expanded library and believe this should be the next big thing for Gloucester. They also see the possibility of a renovated and expanded library contributing significantly to the downtown and cultural area surrounding the library," according to the report. 

The study was not short of challenges, however, as the firm identified the library has not had a strong history of fundraising as the board is limited in its scope of work. 

The board will announce details of the foundation and the capital campaign at its Annual Board meeting this spring and are estimating that the building project will be ready for construction by 2023. 

"We also want to thank the community for its continued support as we work towards transforming the Sawyer Free Library into an innovative and vibrant space welcoming the people of Gloucester now and for future generations to come," Brennan said. 

Staff writer Taylor Ann Bradford can be reached at 978-675-2705 or tbradford@northofboston.com.

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