ITHACA, N.Y. –– On Tuesday, representatives from the Tompkins County Public Library and Cornell University came together to announce a five year, $100,000 commitment by Cornell to support library programs and services.

“(The library) is truly one of our community’s most precious resources,” Vice President of University Relations, Joel Malina said during the ceremony at the Tompkins County Library. “Where everyone can belong and find joy in learning, discovery and personal growth.”

Vice President of University Relations, Joel Malina

The Tompkins County Public Library has had a long-standing relationship with the university –– it was originally founded as the Cornell Free Library in 1864 by Ezra Cornell. In 1967, the Library was officially changed to the Tompkins County library and chartered to serve the entirety of the county.

Since the re-chartering more than 50 years ago, Cornell has remained involved in funding the library. Tompkins County Public Library is funded primarily through county funds and allocations, but programming and community services are funded by public donations through the Tompkins County Public Library Foundation. 

“The foundation works to provide enhanced access for programming, and the library experience,” said Annette Birdsall, library director.

Birdsall said with this new commitment from Cornell for $20,000 a year for five years will help achieve the mission of the library foundation, which is to “sustain and strengthen our library by inspiring community support” and “serve as a bridge between the library and the community, encouraging engagement through philanthropy and participation.”

Birdsall said the money will both strengthen existing programming, and provide an opportunity for new programs as well.

Existing programs at the library include Ballet and Books with Southside Community Center, Next Chapter Book Club with Challenge Industries and book talks and reader’s theatre at the county jail.

There are plans for a new mobile library working with the five rural libraries in Tompkins County, and a mail-in book program, as well.

“This commitment (by Cornell) is really to ensure that everyone in Tompkins County is actually receiving library service,” Birdsall said.

Joel Malina also stressed that on top of the financial commitment, Cornell will be committing to strengthening their campus community’s engagement at the downtown library through events and student volunteerism.

“We have 23,000 students and a lot of efforts in our community relations office are to encourage those students who are interested, and to entice other students, to engage and become part of the greater Ithaca community,” Malina said. “And I think the library is a great starting point.”

Anna Lamb is a reporter for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact her at