It was early 1989 and Mark Massel was thinking about two of his favorite subjects; economics and helping others. By then retired from renowned careers as an economist, attorney, international consultant and author, he was concerned about budget deficits plaguing the Monterey County Free Libraries. Government funding was on the decline and without sufficient operating funds the many special programs offered to county residents through the Libraries system were at risk.
With the encouragement of his wife, Katherine, Mark decided to leave in his Trust a bequest of $100,000 to the County Libraries. It was his hope that his gift would help to support library services throughout Monterey County and to expand and improve upon those services to meet the needs of the county’s growing and changing population. His vision, as always, however, was not limited to any short-term “bailout”. The gift was made on condition that it be held by the County Treasurer and then, upon establishment of the Foundation for Monterey County Free Libraries, to be transferred to the Foundation for a two-fold purpose: to supplement public sources to operate library facilities and programs and to act as “seed money” to attract more charitable gifts.
The first decade of the Foundation’s history has been filled with a score of successes and many changes. From the beginning, we enjoyed the support and thoughtful leadership of Katherine Massel. Although she retired from active service to the Board of Directors in 1998, she has continued to be an inspiration and a great mentor to the board, its staff and everyone connected with the Foundation’s work.
After Mark’s death in April 1989, then County Librarian Dallas Shaffer and a dedicated group of prominent county residents set forth on the adventure of creating a foundation. Galvanized by the huge startup fund, Dallas was joined by others including Nancy Ausonio, Jim Bower, Mark Engle, Katherine Massel, Mary Hutton, Doris Jones, Ira Lively, Marlys Maher, Kitty Mast and the late Roger Williams, who together embarked on a course of raising additional monies. At the same time, they worked tirelessly on the preliminary formation and planning stages of the new charitable organization.
The Board of Supervisors by Resolution on October 24, 1989, recognized the establishment of the Foundation for Monterey County Free Libraries. Shortly thereafter, the founding Board of Directors caused Articles of Incorporation to be filed with the California Secretary of State, then, the IRS conferred “501(c)(3)” status and the foundation was officially born.
The early years saw many accomplishments. The Seaside branch library started the first Homework Center in 1991 with a $5,000 grant from the Dunspaugh-Dalton Foundation. By May of that year FMCFL Board of Directors had pledged to raise $325,000 to support expansion of the program to other sites as well as increasing frequency of bookmobile services, providing staff and materials for literacy programs and purchasing new children’s books.
In June 1993, with the backing of famed children’s author, Beverly Cleary, the Foundation launched a $125,000 new bookmobile serving North Monterey County. Library patrons gained access to the Internet from the Seaside branch in November 1994, and Bookmobile II hit the road in South County in September 1995. Recently a Reading Safari Literacy Van was added to the fleet, designed to furnish free service to Child Care Homes, Child Care Centers & pre schools.
With funding provided by the Foundation, summer reading programs flourished and by 1997 more than 9,000 youngsters were benefiting from the program. By 1998 the Board of Directors had approved its first ever six-figure annual budget to support various library programs. Starting with an operating budget of only $15,000 in 1991, the Foundation continued to grow and by the end of 2000 projected an annual budget of more than $370,000 for the next fiscal year.
We thank and applaud everyone who has given precious time, money and other resources to help this Foundation “open windows to a larger world” for the residents of and visitors to Monterey County.