Foresight & Vision Were Impetus for Library Foundation
On June 14, seventy people attended a Donor’s Recognition Reception in the Downtown Library to honor supporters and celebrate the foundation’s accomplishments.
It was 20 years ago when Library Director Jane Light approached Georgi LaBerge, a former mayor of Redwood City, with the idea of a foundation to supplement library funds and finance library programs. When results of a feasibility study showed that the community would indeed support a library foundation, Georgi, along with Sandra Cooperman and Jack Grennalch (another former Redwood City mayor) started the Redwood City Library Foundation (RCLF).
Recounting some of their foundation experiences, Georgi, Sandra, and Redwood Shores Library Campaign Co-Chair Rosanne Foust, spoke at the reception. Because Georgi and Sandra had limited fundraising experience, they attended a workshop sponsored by California state libraries to educate themselves. The first foundation board included six members and funded many projects, one of which was raising $200,000 for training and books for Traveling Storytime that ultimately generated 100,000 visits to preschools. Other early projects included the Hearing Loop, supporting people with hearing loss, and the Daddy and Me program.
RCLF began because people cared about our community and wanted our libraries to be more than just a home for books.
-Rosanne Foust, former Redwood City Mayor and Redwood Shores Library campaign chair from 2005 to 2007
Rouslana Yaroslavsky, current foundation executive director, joined the foundation board in 2005 at the start of the major fundraising campaign for the Redwood Shores Library. The foundation board, with Sandra Cooperman as president and Celia LaRiviere as library liaison, pledged to raise $850,000 for the opening day collection of books and related materials.
Georgi LaBerge remembered being contacted by an officer from Oracle who had heard about the new library and, without being solicited, offered a substantial donation. She also compiled a list of ten local Fortune 500 business leaders and wrote to them asking for donations. Pamela and Pierre Omidyar (founder of eBay) were quick to donate. Sandra Cooperman recalled contacting the CEO of the San Mateo Credit Union, who immediately asked “How much?” Rosanne Foust, campaign chair from 2005 to 2007, said that as word got out more donations, large and small, began to arrive.
Redwood Shores residents, who at first were hoping to have a community center built, soon became avid supporters of their new library. Once the cost of the books was raised, the next project was the Redwood Shores Library Interpretive Center, the only one in the area at the time. The Redwood Shores Library
opened its doors in 2008.
As Ms. Foust noted, “RCLF began because people cared about our community and wanted our libraries to be more than just a home for books. They envisioned all generations coming together to learn and connect. For me, libraries bring back great memories of my childhood, the educational institutions I attended, and the places I brought my children to check out books and videos that provided a window into the world and all of its infinite possibilities and opportunities. We are so fortunate to have a world-class library system in Redwood City powered by so many, including RCLF.”
The foundation board now includes four officers and 14 members, with volunteers on
advisory and auxiliary committees. In the past 20 years, the foundation has raised more than $3 million for materials, events, programs and services such as:
Teen Homework Center in the Downtown Library, providing a safe place, homework help, classes, and technology assistance for teens
Fair Oaks Library collection
Early Childhood Learning Centers in 4 library branches plus Baby Bay interactive learning structure in the Downtown Library
Annual STEAM community festival, promoting science, technology, engineering, arts, and math
Building home libraries by providing free books in Spanish and English for families
Kids in Partnership program, teaching volunteer teens how to tutor kids and improve their reading skills
RCLF’s current programs and initiatives include:
Bridging the Digital Divide
Funds new computers for the Downtown Library Teen Center, as well as mobile wifi hotspots and educational laptops for families to check out and take home
Career Online High School in the Library
Allows adult learners to earn a high school diploma & career certificate
Interpretive Center Upgrades - Redwood Shores Library
Funds improvements to the center, allowing children to learn about the wetlands and the wonders of the SF Bay
Writing Cats & Dogs
Funds a 6-week creative writing and art program for children 8 to 12 that builds awareness about homeless animals while teaching writing and storytelling (collaborates with Pets In Need)
Thank you to our wonderful community for making these many projects possible!