Supporting libraries comes naturally for John Gismondi and his family.
“Growing up, our family’s home, where my 98-year-old mother still resides, was within walking distance to the Uniontown Public Library, and my siblings and I were regular users. Although neither of my parents were educated beyond high school, they instilled an intellectual curiosity in all of us and it served us well throughout the rest of our lives,” said John.
Through their foundation, the Gismondi Family Foundation, John and his wife Lisa have generously supported libraries. In 1995, in honor of his father, John created the James F. Gismondi Children’s Learning Center and Computer Lab at his hometown library and continues to provide annual financial support for technology enhancements. Since 2017, their grants to Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh (CLP) have expanded the Best Books for Babies program to other libraries in Allegheny, Washington, Greene and Fayette counties.
The Foundation made it possible for CLP to provide early literacy professional development workshops to librarians in Southwestern Pennsylvania. A number of libraries were given the resources to host Best Books for Babies Baby Book Showers – events where staff share tips on developing early literacy skills and information about library services for the families, while celebrating new parents with book giveaways to grow their home libraries. Those libraries then worked with their community partners, such as child care centers, schools and family support centers, to coordinate book giveaways.
Now the Gismondi Family Foundation is taking their support of libraries a step further, through a new multi-year partnership with CLP. The Gismondi VITAL Library Grant (Versatile Investment to Area Libraries) will provide special funding to qualifying libraries in Allegheny County.
“The impetus for creating the grant was simple: to provide some financial assistance to ‘vital’ local organizations,” said John.
At present, nine Allegheny County libraries serving at-risk areas will be eligible to receive funds. The grant will be managed by Anita Greene-Jones, CLP’s Assistant Director of Shared Services and County Relations, along with a committee made up of staff from both CLP and the Allegheny County Library Association.
“We are honored that John and his family have put their trust in Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh to steward these grants,” said Mary Frances Cooper, President and Director. “Because libraries in Allegheny County share so many resources, opportunities to create more equitable services will benefit all of our patrons.”
The grants will support costs for tangible items that can expand, enhance or, in emergencies, make vital library services possible. The funds could be used to upgrade equipment or technology not normally covered by existing funding sources. Libraries could also replace furnishings or appliances, make emergency repairs, or provide supplies for educational programs.
“I’ve always had a firm belief that local libraries are core civic assets that are vital to the lifeblood of small towns and communities,” said John. “They provide so much more than just books to the local populace. They are learning and training centers for young people, senior citizens and others. And they provide important public meeting space for local folks. In essence, for many small communities, the local library often serves as the most visible and important ‘connector’ among area residents.”
The first round of Gismondi VITAL Library Grants will be announced in October. Visit carnegielibrary.org/VITAL for updates.