Who We Are
For nearly 150 years, Cary Memorial Library has nourished and sustained our literary and cultural heritage, and has enhanced our understanding of the world. Lexington townspeople have demonstrated their appreciation and affection for our public library through a strong municipal commitment coupled with essential charitable support. The Cary Memorial Library Foundation continues that proud tradition by raising funds for the Library’s operating budget, capital needs, and endowment, today and for the future.
The Cary Memorial Library Foundation, Inc., was established in 1999 at the behest of the Cary Memorial Library Board of Trustees as a tax-exempt, nonprofit, 501(c)(3) charitable organization (tax ID number 04-3462996) responsible for raising funds for Cary Memorial Library in Lexington, Massachusetts. The Foundation’s mission is to raise funds for the Library’s capital, annual, and endowment needs, today and for the future. Its first accomplishment was to raise $4.2 million toward the $15 million building renovation completed in 2004. Since the Annual Fund was launched in 2003, over $550,000 has been raised to address the current needs of the collections and support new programs.
The Foundation works in partnership with Library staff, the Friends of Cary Memorial Library, Inc., and the Library’s Board of Trustees.
Board of Directors
Jeri Zeder, President
Andrea Jackson, Vice President
Bob Boudreau, Treasurer
Nancy Shepard, Clerk
Kat MacDonald, Director of Development
Liaisons to the Board
Phyllis Brooks, President, Friends of Cary Memorial Library
Norman P. Cohen, Chair, Library Board of Trustees
Koren Stembridge, Director, Cary Memorial Library
A History of Charitable Support For Our Public Library
The Cary Family Launches a Tradition
Lexington's earliest library, established in 1827, was the first tax-supported library in the United States. In 1868, Maria Hastings Cary presented Lexington with a challenge gift of $1,000. The Town agreed to match this sum if $400 or its equivalent in books could be raised in additional private donations. Lexington residents exceeded the fundraising goal and a new free library was established with a collection of 1,200 books.
In 1906, Alice Butler Cary memorialized her mother, Maria Hastings Cary, with a new building inscribed with the name Cary Memorial Library. Designed by renowned architect and Lexington resident, Willard Brown, the elegant structure housed 2,617 volumes in our small farming community of 2,250 people. There was no sewage system and no streetlights. Yet Lexington proudly offered a free public school system and eagerly embraced the creation of a free library for all.
Growth, Change — and a Town's Unwavering Commitment
As Lexington's population began to rapidly increase in the 1950s, demands on the Library grew—as did public and private support. The collection grew from 10,000 in the 1940s to 85,000 titles, largely because of the generosity of Lexington's private citizens. The first Library addition was completed in 1958; a second renovation was completed in 1975.
By the end of the 20th century, the Library's vast collection had grown to more than 225,000 books, periodicals, historical documents, and audiovisual items. With more than 80% of Town residents holding library cards, citizens borrowed materials at the rate of 650,000 a year. More than 10,000 people walked through Cary Library's doors each week, making Cary Memorial Library the most heavily used library of its size in the Commonwealth. All this took its toll on the Library's physical structure.
A New Building, a New Beginning
In 2000, Lexington again rallied around its beloved Library, undertaking a third and massive renovation that was completed in 2004. The project's total cost was $15.5 million. Of that, $4.2 million in private money, raised by the Cary Memorial Library Foundation, was donated by the citizens and business community of Lexington. The beautiful new Cary Memorial Library building was restored to the original Willard Brown historic 1906 design with an addition, and features
- State-of-the-art technology
- Easy access for all
- Spacious meeting room for 80 people
- Quiet study rooms
- Cost-effective, energy-efficient heating, cooling, and electrical systems
- Preservation of our historical collections
- Enlarged Children's Room
The Cary Memorial Library Foundation is committed to realizing the promise and potential of this free and open community center for lifelong learning. With the generous support of Lexington's citizens, we promote the Library, help expand its collections, broaden its programs, and rebuild its endowment.
Every Lexington citizen is both a stakeholder and a steward of Cary Memorial Library. Each of us can ensure that future generations will benefit from our generosity, just as we have benefited from the foresight of the Cary Family.