As CEO of Infor, Charles Phillips leverages the insights built up over the course of his career to develop one of the world’s leading enterprise software companies. Tech executive and philanthropist Charles Phillips and his Phillips Charitable Foundation have provided support to a range of charitable and educational causes. And through his foundation, the former Oracle Corporation president helps to foster the love of reading and civic engagement through donations to the New York Public Library.
One recent Phillips Charitable Foundation contribution of $15,000 focuses on a new educational initiative at the library. Charles Phillips – a member of the NYPL board of trustees – and his wife have additionally demonstrated their dedication to the library by serving as co-chairs of the 2016 Library Lions, one of the city’s most eagerly-awaited annual cultural events.
Here are just seven of the reasons the New York Public Library is an institution worthy of support:
Community-focused from the beginning.
The NYPL’s history dates back to a philanthropic plan established in 1895. The second half of the 19th century was a tumultuous time in New York City, as its population grew to place it second only to London among world cities at that time. Its industrial base also expanded, bringing new generations of immigrants seeking to better their lives through work and education.
Community leaders recognized the need to create an institution that would support the desires of all its residents for lifelong learning, self-education, and personal improvement.
Founded with a historic bequest.
Former New York governor and unsuccessful Democratic presidential candidate Samuel Tilden died in 1886, leaving his fortune of more than $2 million to the city as the foundation for the creation of a free public library. The bequest from Tilden, along with donations from other contributors, would move civic leaders’ plans forward.
John Bigelow, a director of the Tilden Trust, placed the public good uppermost when he suggested that the Tilden funds be combined with the resources of the then-failing Astor and Lenox research libraries to create a single institution that would serve as a truly public library.
Carving a center of learning from marble.
The cornerstone of the new library was laid in 1902 after years of preparation. The architectural firm of Carrère and Hastings designed a massive marble structure, in the Beaux Arts style, to occupy the space of the former Croton Reservoir on Fifth Avenue between 40th and 42nd Streets.
The library’s first director, John Shaw Billings, planned to systematize what was, to date, the world’s most rapid book- and document-delivery system to serve the patrons of the library’s expansive reading room.
And after nine years of construction work and $9 million, the New York Public Library opened its doors in 1911. Offering access to some 1 million books, the library welcomed tens of thousands of visitors to its grand opening, which featured President William H. Taft as master of ceremonies.
Carnegie funds help make a library system.
Turn-of-the-century steel magnate Andrew Carnegie benefited the library through a $5.2 million contribution earmarked for the instruction of library branches in the city. The NYPL had by that time already taken over the operations of an earlier circulating library in 1901. It used the Carnegie donation to expand into the neighborhoods of the Bronx and Staten Island, as well as throughout Manhattan.
Providing over 100 years of public education.
On the occasion of its centennial, the NYPL looked back on its long history of acquiring, preserving, and making available a vast array of knowledge, information, and entertainment to generations of readers. These readers included – and continue to include – immigrants who have found within its walls a new kind of freedom: the freedom to read and think for themselves, and to dream of becoming successful on their own terms in their new country and city.
A haven for scholars.
Over the years, the treasures from the NYPL’s archives have supported the work of scholars in every field of knowledge, and it has regularly created displays of its holdings. For example, in one of its centennial exhibits, the library put on view the first example of a Gutenberg Bible ever acquired in North America.
A true community presence.
The library has grown to encompass a total of 92 locations. This now-extensive system of neighborhood branches makes books as well as children’s and family programming accessible to the entire community.
Today’s adult education programs at the NYPL include classes on basic computer literacy and more advanced applications, résumé-writing, sign language, health and fitness, arts and crafts, English language skills, and much more, delivered in multiple languages.
Children’s programming includes preschool story time, special events, and a vibrant summer reading program. The 2017 summer theme, “Build a Better World Through Reading,” is designed to keep students’ reading skills sharp, and to pique their interest in a variety of books and genres.
Among the NYPL’s regular events is its annual Library Lunch, an opportunity for supporters and fans to meet their favorite authors and literary celebrities while supporting library programs. At the most recent Library Lunch in April 2017, the NYPL hosted poets Robert Pinsky, Jorie Graham, and Kevin Young, in conversation with Paul Muldoon, the poetry editor of The New Yorker.