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Frequently Asked Questions

The Top 10

What is Sawyer Free Library 2025?

Sawyer Free 2025 is a philanthropic capital campaign to fund a comprehensive renovation and modernization of our existing library building, designed by local architect Don Monell, while preserving the original exterior. The project will also double the size of the existing library’s footprint by constructing a 15,000-square foot addition that extends the library toward School Street.

The project’s design principles are grounded in the human experience and a mission to put people first. The newly renovated and expanded Gloucester Lyceum and Sawyer Free Library will stand as an exemplar of what a 21st century educational, cultural, civic and community hub can and should be in terms of architecture, accessibility, sustainability, the use of natural resources and light, layouts, lines of sight, air quality and public safety. The interior will comprise three, seamlessly navigable floors featuring multimodal wayfinding, state-of-the-science embedded technology and customized acoustical elements.

Sawyer Free 2025 constitutes a once-in-a-lifetime, transformational investment in a vital community resource that will exponentially amplify the library’s ability to deliver critical services and outcomes not only for Gloucester, but for communities across Cape Ann and the North Shore as a place of equity, inclusion, connection, creation, compassion, renewal and advancement.

To learn more, go to our Visit Our Future page.

Why is a public library relevant in the age of Google?

With the rise of the internet, many people predicted the public library would become redundant. Even irrelevant. What those pundits underestimated is that the more information there is and the more sophisticated equipment and applications become, the more help people need. In point of fact, the library welcomes about 275,000 in-person and website visitors annually, making it the city’s single widest-reaching institution. It also represents the city’s largest, free, public, after-hours gathering place.

Our library functions as a fundamental equalizing organization in our community. The library provides a lifeline of services for people from all walks of life as a center for early education, job-training, teen engagement, technology workshops, multilingual/immigrant support, lifelong learning and reliable internet/tech access in a city where nearly a quarter of residents have none. It maintains programming partnerships with more than 100 North Shore non-profits. Nearly 15,000 people—just under half Gloucester’s population—hold an SFL library card. On average, 700 children, teens and adults benefit daily from library services.

Nearly 50 years old, the current library opened before the age of personal computers at a time when libraries’ form, function and purpose adhered to 19th century conventional wisdom. The current building is beyond its intended service lifespan, especially as it relates to facilities and systems. It is not ADA/OSHA or state/local building-code compliant. The archival materials and records the library holds are not under climate-controlled protection.

The existing building’s interior must be dramatically reimagined to accommodate the modern needs of residents and users from around Cape Ann and across the North Shore. The existing footprint of the library must double in size to handle its current foot traffic, which will only increase with the expanded programming and services the library will offer as we move deeper into the 21st century.

Who is paying for the Sawyer Free Library renovation and addition?

The project is structured so no Gloucester city dollars will cover any costs once the campaign is complete. Sawyer Free 2025 will ultimately be fully funded by philanthropic donations set in motion by an integrated media capital campaign.

The project’s total projected cost is $28 million, a sum that includes built-in inflation costs through completion of the project in 2025. In July of 2022, the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners approved a $9.3 million matching grant, which will account for just over one third of the project’s total projected cost. The grant is conditioned on the $18.7M project cost balance being raised by December 31,2022 to enable the commencement of construction in early 2023 with completion in 2025. Given the shortened time frames caused by the pandemic, a loan order from the city of Gloucester has been requested by the library to cover the impending deadlines of these requirements.

The Sawyer Library Foundation’s sole mission is to raise funds in support of the Sawyer Free Library. The Foundation has launched the Sawyer Free 2025 capital campaign to raise the $18.7M balance of the $28M project cost. With the benefit of a city loan to cover the above requirements and deadlines, the Foundation expects to raise all funds necessary to repay the principal and interest of the loan in full and at no cost to the taxpayers of our city.

As for the library’s application for ARPA funds, this effort is consistent with the express purpose, mission, and title of the federal legislative act. The American Rescue Plan Act was created to provide local recovery funds to communities like Gloucester, which have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID pandemic. As an anchor institution in our city providing crucial services to this community, the Sawyer Free Library and, by extension, the Sawyer Free 2025 campaign, are closely aligned with the ARPA funding objectives as well as specific categories eligible for such funding. Along with many other worthy non-profits in our city, the library has, accordingly, applied for ARPA funding relief, which does not involve general tax dollars of our city.

Is there a minimum donation amount?

You can give as little as $3 and get the same level of choice, transparency, feedback and gratitude as anyone else who pitches in.

Is my donation tax deductible?

The short answer is yes. All gifts are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law.

Individuals may deduct qualified contributions of up to 100 percent of their adjusted gross income. A corporation may deduct qualified contributions of up to 25 percent of its taxable income. Contributions that exceed this amount can carry over to the next tax year.

Please note, this information should not be considered tax-related advice or counsel. Please seek additional guidance from a tax professional or the IRS.

What happens when I donate online or text to donate?

Once a donation comes in via our online donation form, our payment processing vendor automatically emails a receipt—or sends an automated text—to the donor that includes all necessary tax-deductable details. We will also send to all donors a consolidated, year-end receipt of that tax year’s donations to Sawyer Free 2025.

Can I send a check to Sawyer Free 2025 instead of donating over the internet?

By all means. Please mail checks to:

2 Dale Avenue
Gloucester, MA 01930.

You can also text-to-donate by sending this code: “325182” to 1-855-575-7888. Learn more about Ways to Give.

What will the new Sawyer Free Library 2025 include?

New features will include build-outs like: a Children’s Programming Room (in addition to a Children’s Room), a Digital Makerspace (featuring new and emerging technologies along with a digital lab for media creation and coding activities), a dedicated Teen Room, a dedicated Teen-creation Room, a Film Recording Room, an Audio Recording Studio and a 110-seat Community Room, a divisible flex space with state of the-science tech, which will be a public-use area.

Additional features will include: a new atrium entrance, a Library History Center with an a atmospherically controlled archival space, a Quiet Reading Room, a 16-seat Community Conference Room—also a public-use space—and a renovation of the existing Matz Gallery along with fully ADA/OSHA and state/local building-code compliance.

When will construction begin and end?

Construction will begin in 2023 with completion anticipated in 2025.

What if my question isn’t answered here?

We’re eager to hear from you. Please email your questions to or call 978-225-0363 or 978-225-0915.

More About The Project

Will the library be open during construction?

Yes. The library will move to a temporary location and continue to operate until the new facility opens.

Is the existing library building being demolished?

No. The renovation piece of the project retains the facade of the existing building, which also thematically reflects the design of the nearby Cape Ann Museum.

Is accessibility part of the Sawyer Free 2025 construction plan?

Restricted or burdensome access to physical environments is a barrier that prevents many people from fully exercising their right to participate in social, cultural and professional life on an equitable basis. The Sawyer Free Library 2025 building plan anticipates the diverse needs of people of different ages and abilities and exceeds accommodations required for ADA compliance. The design principles facilitate dignified, equal and intuitive use by everyone via multiple sensory formats. The library is committed to creating a building that will set new accessibility standards for public buildings in Gloucester.

Is sustainability part of the Sawyer Free 2025 construction plan?

In keeping with the library’s overall mission, the project’s approach to investing in climate justice and climate resilience represents an opportunity to incorporate a public-education component by demonstrating what can be done with a building to address climate change. All across the country, libraries are leading from the front with regard to improving energy efficiency and combating global warming. To tell that story as part of Sawyer Free Library 2025 is a rare and treasured opportunity.

As part of Sawyer Free 2025, both the new and renovated buildings will be a LEED Gold Certified, Net-Zero-Ready building—a status achieved by minimizing energy demand, generating as much electricity on site as possible, primarily via solar, and securing a 100-percent renewable source for additional electricity to achieve net-zero emissions.

Will new building operating costs exceed current costs?

The current property is supported by a patchwork of facilities and systems controlling heating, cooling, ventilation, water distribution and fire detection/suppression, all dating from a variety of technological eras and resulting in wasteful and costly energy consumption. The renovated and expanded library will operate with no increase in energy costs.

Will more staff be needed to run the 2025 Sawyer Free Library?

No. The library will continue to be open at its current weekly hours and will feature the same number of distinct floors as the current building. The open floor plan design of the project will facilitate optimal sight lines for staff members to more efficiently and effectively monitor a larger area.

How will the Foundation ensure the project stays within budget?

The Sawyer Free 2025 project includes the hire of an owner’s project management firm, which provides services that are unique in the design and construction industry. Construction Monitoring Services, Inc. will serve as an independent agent of the Gloucester Lyceum and Sawyer Free Library. CMS will perform third-party counsel for and oversight of construction planning and execution with special attention to construction management controls as well as administering contracts and negotiations. This approach will deliver outcomes of superior quality, on budget.

The library has also received a Notice to Proceed from the Massachusetts Office of the Inspector General to pursue the project using construction management at-risk (CM at-risk) delivery method. Under CM at-risk, a two-phase selection process is employed to contract with a construction manager that will also serve as the project’s general contractor. The contract incorporates the project cost plus a fixed-fee contract with a guaranteed maximum price.

Will the building project preserve the library’s outdoor amphitheater along the west side of Dale Avenue?


Is restoration and renovation of the Saunders House part of this project?

Only in terms of timing. The restoration and renovation of the Saunders House is a separate capital project that will be principally grant-funded and will run concurrently alongside the Sawyer Free 2025 project.

Who put forward the building design?

Oudens Ello Architecture, which won a national AIA/ALA Library Building Award in 2018 for its design on the Eastham Public Library and a 2021 AIA New England Merit Award for its design of the Norwell Public Library.

The library has also received a Notice to Proceed from the Massachusetts Office of the Inspector General to pursue the project using construction management at-risk (CM at-risk) delivery method. Under CM at-risk, a two-phase selection process is employed to contract with a construction manager who will also serve as the project’s general contractor. The contract incorporates the project cost plus a fixed-fee contract with a guaranteed maximum price.

More Financial Stuff

How do I know my Sawyer Free Library 2025 campaign donation is not going to overhead or administrative costs?

The Sawyer Free Library 2025 campaign employs no full-time paid staff and every member of the Sawyer Library Foundation Board is a volunteer. Campaign marketing costs are a pre-budgeted component of the campaign. Accordingly, 100 percent of donations will go to fund the library renovation and expansion project.

How do I know the Sawyer Free Library Foundation is tax-exempt?

To learn whether any particular nonprofit organization is registered as a tax-exempt nonprofit, you can look them up by name using the GuideStar or Citizen Audit websites. Click to view the Sawyer Library Foundation’s Determination Letter as a 501(c)(3) organization by the IRS. Our EIN is: 84-2837206.

What happens if we don’t meet our goal?

If our philanthropic fundraising goal is not met, the Sawyer Library Foundation will contact donors using the email/text information they provided at the time of their donation to initiate the refund process. We have no expectation or intention of ever having to perform this duty.

Does the Sawyer Free Library Foundation file annually with the IRS?

The IRS Form 990 is the tax form that all tax-exempt nonprofits must file with the IRS annually.

Is the library a wing of the City of Gloucester municipal government?

No. The Gloucester Lyceum and Sawyer Free Library is a public charitable corporation designated under a charter granted by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts on June 10, 1872. It is funded through philanthropy and via an annual appropriation from the City of Gloucester ($1.19 million in FY 2022)

Who owns the library property and facilities?

The Gloucester Lyceum and Sawyer Free Library Corporation owns the library property and structures.

What is a public charity?

Public charities are tax-exempt nonprofits recognized under IRS Code section 501(c)(3) that receive funding from the public at large (as opposed to private foundations that receive their funding from a limited number of sources, typically from interest earned on an endowment). Financial support for public charities can come in the form of donations from individuals as well as earned income, and from contracts/grants from the government (for services the nonprofits provide for the state/local or federal government), private foundations, corporate foundations, community foundations, donor advised funds, and other nonprofits. Public charities must demonstrate sufficient public support in order to maintain their favored tax status. Many organizations classified as public charities, such as churches, schools and hospitals provide services directly to their intended beneficiaries. However, charitable nonprofits can also help other public charities operate by providing financial support or other resources.