St. Louis Public Library

September 19, 2008

With 4.7 million different materials, 81,000 card holders, 300 staff members and 2.33 million annual visitors, the St. Louis Public Library really does take a village to keep running smoothly. But some of the library’s most important functions, its educational outreach programs, cannot be fully supported by the property tax dedicated to it. That’s where the St. Louis Public Library Foundation, started in 1989, comes in. Each year it helps raise funds for the library’s other mission, to help kids in the city succeed.

    Tom Schlafly, chairman of the Library Foundation, says the organization’s Winter White Gala on Dec. 6 will raise awareness and funds for two such programs, Homework Helpers and MyTracs. “Homework helpers is now in its 10th year, and serves more than 32,000 children at 13 city branches each year,” says Schlafly. “It’s an after-school program that provides trained staff to work one-on-one with children completing their homework. The students in the city schools don’t always have the same resources as their peers in other districts.” 

    The other outreach effort to benefit from the upcoming gala is MyTracs, a paid internship program in which teenage students work on Saturdays to create, maintain and promote a Web site that provides resource information for other teens. “Thirty years ago, literacy meant being able to read. Today, it embraces so much more than that, and MyTracs hopes to help equip older students with the technological literacy they’ll need as their education continues,” says Schlafly.

    The gala takes place at the Central Library at 1301 Olive St., a venue Schlafly describes as one of St. Louis’ greatest architectural gems. “The building’s architect was Cass Gilbert, who also designed the Saint Louis Art Museum and the U.S. Supreme Court Building in New York City,” he says. “The beautiful frescoes, extensive marble and gilded ceilings will make a beautiful backdrop for the event, especially when paired with the dramatic Winter White theme.” The evening’s honorary chair is Dr. Paul LeClerc, president and CEO of the New York Public Library. “We’re thrilled he will join us to share with our guests the critical importance a library has in the success of a city.” James Afflixio and Dorte Probstein co-chair the event, and Alison Nichols Ferring serves as the Library Foundation board liaison. 

  Individual tickets, which are available by calling 340-2403, start at $250 and tables of 10 range from $2,500 to $10,000, depending on sponsorship level.

  Corporate sponsors already on board include HBE Corporation, Tom & Ulrike Schlafly, ALIVE Magazine, HUGHES, Lashly & Baer, Build-A-Bear Workshop Foundation, Maxine Clark & Bob Fox, Edward Jones, Kranson Industries, dbr TricorBraun, Linda Lockwood & Ralph Wiechert, Mr. And Mrs. Stephen Brauer, Rubin Brown and U.S. Bank. 

    To raise awareness about the importance of the library to St. Louisans of all ages, the Library Foundation recently started a young professionals group called the Young Literati. It will host the event’s after party, which starts at 10 p.m., with tickets costing $75 ($60 for Young Literati members). “It’s so important to get involved with a cause close to you as soon as you’re able,” Schalfly contends. “The members of our young professional group will lead the next generation of leaders and givers in this community, and their input is critical in helping our library succeed.”

    Schlafly applauds the library as a local treasure that is underappreciated. “The library has not had as high a profile as other organizations, but I’m confident that as people are reminded what a gem it really is and the great work it’s doing, we’ll get the support needed to reach our goals.”