Vineyard Haven library’s capital campaign is back

With COVID-19 restrictions loosened, the library steps up its fundraising efforts. 


In 2017, the Vineyard Haven library began its plans to build a multipurpose room, after receiving feedback from surveyed patrons about dissatisfaction with the library’s facilities used to host these programs. Raising funds and running operations slowed down in 2020 due to COVID, but now the library is back promoting its campaign to raise funds through the Vineyard Haven Public Library Building Fund, a nonprofit organization established in 2018 with the sole purpose of raising money for the project. 

According to the library’s director, Amy Ryan, the plan was to make sure the funding did not come from Tisbury residents’ taxes: “We knew the town had some pressing issues before it, such as the school, and because we felt it was something the community at large and philanthropy in the community would support, we decided we would not ask for additional taxpayer funding, that we would do a capital campaign.” 

The capital campaign went on throughout the COVID pandemic, although at a slower rate than at a prepandemic pace. According to Arch Smith, president of the building fund, the campaign has raised around $750,000 of its $2 million goal. “That’s pretty good, considering fundraising is meeting people and talking to them about the passion we have about the local library,” Smith said, which was not possible due to the need for social distancing during the pandemic.

Recently signs, similar to ones for campaigns during election season, have popped up on Vineyard Haven lawns alerting the public to the renewed campaign.

Although the fundraising was “pretty good” considering the COVID situation, Smith said, the design process of the project was also hindered. There was a design created in January, but it was put on hold during the pandemic. “This is not saying we’re dragging our feet or ignoring it, but it’s the reality of what happened in the last year,” he said.

“With the library closed, there was a lot of uncertainty,” Ryan added.

Besides COVID, Ryan said, the campaign faced other challenges. Misunderstanding about how the project would be funded caused worry among some Tisbury residents, since work on Tisbury School was also proposed. Additionally, some were concerned about losing the library’s garden space. This concern was taken into consideration by the board of library trustees, leading to the hiring of an architect who also had skill in landscaping: Maryann Thompson Architects. 

“We’ll still have a substantial amount of the garden,” Ryan said.

The multipurpose room project would allow in-person programs to occur in a clean room with up-to-date audiovisual equipment. This contrasts to the basement-level event space that had been used. “Even before COVID, the Vineyard Haven Public Library event space was too small, poorly ventilated, and inadequate for our educational programs. They were doing too many high-end, excellent programs, and too many people wanted to come, and we had no space for it,” Smith said. ”After COVID, the space is essentially unusable.”

The building expansion is a necessity for the library. According to Ryan, “since 2007 the library has experienced more than 300 percent growth in attendance at adult programs, in addition to maintaining a vibrant schedule for children.” During the pandemic, the library used virtual programs to serve the community. Ryan hopes to continue to keep the virtual aspect by making the programs into hybrid versions. 

Additionally, if the funding goal is met, Ryan hopes other parts might be added, such as a basement to help with the very limited storage space the library has, or solar panels to power the building. These are supplementary to the main project, and will only be considered if there is enough money left over. Ryan said another cost estimate may be needed to figure out what is feasible.

With COVID restrictions loosened, Ryan felt it was the right time to revamp the capital campaign for the project. “It was a good time to remind people, ‘Yes, we’re still doing this project,’ and, ‘Yes, we still need your help with it.’” Ryan said yard signs to promote the campaign were received in late June, and have been slowly spreading throughout Tisbury. 

Smith agreed with the idea of re-energizing the community toward the project. Smith said the team will need to “talk to as many people as possible and find ways to have them be as generous as possible in giving, depending on their circumstances.” Smith added that Tisbury “isn’t necessarily a wealthy community, and there are other things on the taxpayer’s plate.”

There is no hard deadline at the moment for the project’s fundraising efforts, but the goal is to amass the funds as soon as possible. The library needs it, and the community wants it, but it will take some time, so Ryan said, “We will patiently move along.” 

“Our trustees had the foresight to avoid burdening the taxpayers with yet another project, and thus have sought to raise the $2 million through the generosity of our citizens. We can get this done,” Smith said.

“It’s not something that’s going to happen within the next year, but hopefully not too long after,” Ryan said.

A public session is planned, although not scheduled yet, to reintroduce the community to the campaign, according to Ryan. 

There will also be an event held by the building fund at West Chop Club on August 5 to promote the project. New York TImes best selling author Martha Hall Kelly will be present to discuss her new book, “Sunflower Sisters.” The ticketed event works as publicity for both “Sunflower Sisters” and the library’s building plans. Tickets can be purchased on Eventbrite under the name “An Evening with Martha Hall Kelly, to benefit Vineyard Haven Library.” 

Those looking to donate to the cause can do so through the building fund’s PayPal, or get a donation form at the Vineyard Haven library. The project is also “always looking for volunteers,” so reach out to Ryan at if you are interested in getting more involved.