Nesbitt Memorial Library Foundation
We need to distinguish ourselves from the Nesbitt Trust. Miss Lee Quinn Nesbitt (1894-1986) endowed the Nesbitt Trust to promote the cultural life of Columbus. The Nesbitt Trust built the library and gifted it to the City of Columbus in 1979 while she was still alive. Mackie Boswell Kearney, for 35 years an English teacher and librarian at Columbus High School, served as president of the library board during the construction of the new library and presided over the transition from the Mansfield building to the new facility. The Nesbitt Trust also assisted with many other projects around town, including generous gifts to the Live Oak Art Center and the Columbus Homes Tour.
The Nesbitt Memorial Library Foundation was established by Tracey Wegenhoft, Jim Kearney, and Bill Stein in 1996. At the time Jim served as chairman of the Library Board, Tracey as a board member, while Bill Stein served as librarian/archivist for the library. Bill had a vision of excellence for the library that required expenditures over and above what the City of Columbus was capable of providing. In accordance with our mission statement, we do not contribute to regular operations and maintenance (o&m), which remain the responsibility of the city. Our goal from the beginning has been to promote Bill Stein’s vision of excellence. In line with this goal, we have funded the Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, have purchased many rare (and expensive) books and documents over the years that relate to Columbus and Colorado County, paid to remodel and upgrade the Bill Stein/Texas Room, hired an expert, Dr. James Smallwood, to organize the archives — a task that took over a year — and many other worthy projects as well. Our guiding principle from the beginning has been to spend money as the need arises, but also to build up a reserve. In line with this we have consistently spent about 50% of our intake and set aside 50% as a reserve.
We were initially chartered by the State of Texas as a non-profit corporation. We are now also officially chartered by the federal government as a 501(c) 3 non-profit organization, which means that all gifts and donations are tax deductible. In this regard, we thank Pierce and son Chris Arthur, both CPAs, and Chris Stein of the law firm of Gates, Stein, and Prause for their pro bono expertise needed to attain these certifications. And here is a good place to mention that 100% of all donations have gone to support our mission statement and none to defray administrative costs. This is actually quite unusual for non-profits. The board is composed of James C. Kearney (president), Tracey Wegenhoft (secretary) and Kenneth Wegenhoft (treasurer). We keep detailed minutes of our meetings and accurate, up to date, and professional financial records, which in the name of transparency, we are happy to share with anyone who cares to inspect them.
We engage in several fund-raisers each year but the annual Cemetery Tour, “Live Oaks and Dead Folks,” held the first weekend in November each year in conjunction with the City of Columbus, is our highest profile event. It has grown over the years to be quite a large event that brings in scores, if not hundreds, of tourists even as it raises historical awareness in a format that is fun and entertaining for young and old alike. The Friends of the Library have also been very generous in their support for the Foundation. We thank all who have contributed to the Foundation but our partnership with the Friends of the Library has been especially productive in furthering and realizing our goal of making the Nesbitt Memorial Library the best small town library in Texas.
The Braden House, our most ambitious project to date:
Five years ago, Lot 51, a full half-acre lot adjoining the Nesbitt Library on the south, came up for sale. Known to Columbus natives as the Braden House, the NMLF board members realized that if the library were ever to expand, we needed to purchase the lot and houses. It was a one time opportunity. We seized upon it although our reserves were not sufficient to cover the full cost of the purchase. We took out a loan and rented out the duplex and garage apartment to help defray costs. We are happy to announce that we were able to pay off the note in the spring of 2016 and in August of the same had the house and garage apartment demolished.
A new phase: what to do with the property?
We have now partnered with Lake/Flato Architects for the discovery phase under a special outreach program they term the 1% program.
A word about Lake/Flato and the 1% program:
Lake/Flato with headquarters in San Antonio, is nationally and internationally acclaimed for buildings that respond organically to the natural environment. The firm uses local materials and workmanship, as well as a deep knowledge of vernacular traditions, to design buildings that are tactile and modern, environmentally responsible and authentic, artful and crafted. Lake/Flato won the Global Award for Sustainable Architecture in 2013, and it has also received the American Institute of Architects’ highest honor, the National Firm Award. In all, Lake|Flato has won more than 150 national and state design awards.
F.W. Flato, grandfather of the principals David and Ted Flato, helped organize our neighboring town of Flatonia in 1874 and then, self-evidently, named the town after his family.
The 1% program:
The Flato family’s deep roots in small town, rural Texas has led the firm to offer the 1% program. Under this program, the firm will do all the design work for a small town library (or similar heritage architectural project) in exchange for a small contribution of 1% of costs, hence the name. The firm does this with no strings attached, so a win/win proposition for those communities that partner. In addition to design work, they will also guide us through the fundraising phase.
We feel our partnership with Lake/Flato is an exciting development not only for the NMLF but even more so for the citizens of Columbus and Colorado County in general.
Let it be noted that we are now in a discovery phase. Nothing in regard to future plans for the property has been decided. The NMLF will determine how to proceed only after public input and full consultation with the librarian, library board, mayor, city council, civic leaders, and public at large.
Jim Kearney, President NMLF Tracey Wegenhoft, Secretary NMLF Kenneth Wegenhoft, Treasurer NMLF