Magazine article American Libraries

Network, Network, Network

Magazine article American Libraries

Network, Network, Network

Article excerpt

A lot of moxie and a little luck brought the 70,000-volume Lenox (Mass.) Library Association some $125,000 closer to its $2-million capital-campaign goal on May 23. On that evening, some 1,000 people paid $45-$100 per seat to attend a library benefit performance by Bill Cosby. Not only did the renowned comedian appear gratis, he even auctioned off a sweatshirt that he personally designed for the occasion. Why? Because the library asked.

"We have stepped out of the mold several times," Development Assistant Lisa Berkel told American Libraries. Two years earlier, jazz musicians John Lewis and Wynton Marsalis had also given a concert in the library's behalf, thanks to Lewis's acquaintance with a library Friend who owned a nightclub at which he sometimes taught music.

Admittedly, the library also had a "remote connection" to Cosby -- namely that Berkel's police-chief husband knew his professional counterpart in the nearby western Massachusetts town where Cosby owns a home. Through that connection, Berkel and her colleagues delivered Cosby an open-ended, over-the-transom invitation in June 1997 to appear at Tanglewood's prestigious Ozawa Hall, which donates its space to nonprofit gigs for a nominal fee.

In October, one of Cosby's assistants contacted the library for details. At that point, Berkel asked Lewis and Marsalis to write a recommendation letter "so Cosby would know we weren't an organization that should stick to bake sales." The rest is fiscal history: Officials have now raised some $1.325 million toward renovating and refurbishing the historic 1815 facility.

To Berkel, the moral of the story is that "You reach, and the worst that will happen is, someone will say no."

Courting Collections

Librarians in New York and elsewhere who may understandably feel fiscally slam-dunked when budget-wielding officials seem intent on diverting public dollars to sports-arena projects (AL, June/ July, p. …

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