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Friday, February 27, 2015 |  Madison, WI: 6.0° F  Fair
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Madison Central Library project sailing smoothly so far
Collins: 'The model is to build major gifts first and get a lot of support behind the scenes.'
Collins: 'The model is to build major gifts first and get a lot of support behind the scenes.'

Construction workers have just about gutted the Central Library as part of a nearly $30 million renovation project and have started to renovate the building.

Meanwhile, efforts to raise money for the project are moving along smoothly.

The Madison Public Library Foundation is ahead of schedule and has raised about 70% of its $9 million goal. The fundraising so far has been behind the scenes, soliciting gifts from wealthy benefactors, corporations and foundations.

But the project will begin a more publicized fundraising campaign in September, says Jennifer Collins, executive director of the Madison Public Library Foundation. The public phase will involve events with branch library groups, a new website and direct mailings, she says.

"The model is to build major gifts first and get a lot of support behind the scenes. And then you really build the public support. If you launch [the public campaign] too early, the momentum can die out."

So far, 640 entities have donated to the cause, including 600 individuals, 19 businesses and 16 foundations, according to the foundation.

To encourage more donations, an anonymous donor has pledged $50,000 to the project if the city can raise another $100,000 by Sept. 30.

"It's a great time for people who might have been thinking about making a donation and have been on the fence," Collins says. "This donor has been really generous to the library over the years and wants to make sure others are encouraged to give."

Meanwhile, there have been no catastrophic surprises in gutting the building at West Mifflin and Fairchild streets, says Bryan Cooper, a city architect who is the project's manager. There have been a few minor ones: Workers discovered an underground tank that had to be removed; the library's roof, which had been leaking for years, ended up causing more damage than expected; and one of the building's footers was larger than expected. But these changes haven't pushed the project over its 8% contingency fund, Cooper says.

Soon, workers will add the building's third floor, work that will be visible to passersby. "There's quite a bit going on inside that's hard to see," Cooper says.

The renovated library is expected to reopen in September 2013. "At this time," Cooper says, "there's no reason that would not happen."

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