The National Endowment for the Humanities announced Monday that it will award a $275,000 grant in matching funds to the Lawrence Public Library for various humanities programs.
For now, the grant is, in theory, the largest donation in the library's history. The grant is not an outright contribution, but is instead contingent on the library's fundraising efforts over the next several years, according to Kathleen Morgan, executive director of the Lawrence Public Library Foundation.
Morgan said Monday the grant gives the library five years to raise enough money to max out the match. The NEH will meet 30 percent of all donations up until it has contributed the $275,000 maximum.
"We were very hopeful for this," said Brad Allen, director of the library. "We're glad the NEH saw the value of what we're trying to do. We feel like public libraries are really able to get that whole idea of what the humanities are out to a broader group of people.
"We're over the moon."
The money will go toward a speakers' series, community reading programs and technology purchases that would enable the library to digitize local records and place them online. There is also an allowance for administrative funds, Morgan said.
The NEH is an independent federal agency that supports research and learning in the humanities. The library's grant was part of a $14.6 million rollout that awarded nearly 200 projects across the nation.
The grant allows the library to count its previous year of fundraising toward the five-year period, which means it actually has four more years of fundraising remaining, according to Morgan.
In 2012, the library netted $300,000 in donations, Morgan said, including a $250,000 grant from the Ross and Marianna Beach Foundation for the annual speakers series meant to feature nationally and internationally recognizable authors.
She said the library's recently enlarged fundraising efforts have supplied an average of $150,000 to $200,000 of donations every year since its renovation was approved in 2010. That money went primarily towards construction, however, Morgan said.
Any donations made to the library's humanities programs will yield the 30 percent match from the NEH, according to Morgan.
"I think that the NEH has helped us raise funds even more because people know that their gift gives us even more with this federal, matching grant," Allen said. "People will see there's an added value."
The new grant is the latest in a string of victories for the library. The funds from the Ross and Marianna Beach Foundation, which were announced in August, were a record-breaking private grant for the library.
And next summer, an $18 million renovation of the library's main Vermont Street location is expected to be completed.
"What it does, it puts us on really exciting and strong footing to do some really spectacular things at the new library," Morgan said. "The people in the community are the beneficiaries of this. Not only are we going to have a wonderful, new facility, but programming to match it."