Educator Creates Legacy for Libraries
Shirley Kreutz Bennett
Small-town libraries receive a helping hand thanks to an affiliated fund of the Nebraska Community Foundation. The Kreutz Bennett Donor-Advised Fund, established by the late Shirley Kreutz Bennett, provides matching grants for public libraries in Nebraska communities with a population of less than 3,000.
Following Shirley’s wishes, a Fund Advisory Committee composed of her nieces and nephews has developed guidelines for grantmaking in three areas: Planning Grants leading to accreditation; Enhancement Grants to improve library services and/or programs; and Facilities Grants for new facilities or the renovation, restoration or rehabilitation of current libraries. All grants will require a certain level of matching funds and evidence that the project has broad community support.
Approximately $70,000 will be available each year. Grants have been awarded annually in each grantmaking area beginning in the spring of 2012. There are 228 libraries in Nebraska communities with populations under 3,000. Of those, 100 are not accredited.
“Gaining accreditation is critical to our libraries. It opens the door to other outside funding,” said Jeff Yost, NCF President and CEO. “In many small towns, the library may be the only place where some people have access to the Internet. Shirley’s legacy gift will help rural libraries adapt to significant changes over these next several years. It shows that she had great vision and commitment to people in our small communities.”
A life-long learner, Shirley graduated from Harvard High School in 1941. She earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Washington and an M.A. and Ph.D. from Columbia University. She taught on both coasts before returning to Nebraska. Shirley was a retired Professor of Education at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln.
“Shirley was able to travel the world, and I think she wanted to equip people who don’t have that opportunity, so they could have the world brought to them” said Shirley’s nephew Russell Kreutz of Doniphan, Nebraska.
Russell Kreutz, said education and self-improvement were important to her; she never stopped growing and was always up for a new challenge. She and her husband, Millard Bennett, a career pilot, were taking classes together right until the end of her life.
“I think Shirley chose to help small-town libraries because she felt that this would be helping where the money was needed most,” Mr. Bennett said.
To avoid duplication and to attempt to leverage existing resources, the Nebraska Library Commission assists NCF and the Fund Advisory Committee with grantmaking.