Ms. Bailey’s sad and wonderful gift to New York libraries
Sent to the New York Post, January 2, 2013
Mary McConnell Bailey’s gift of $10 million to New York libraries is both sad and wonderful (“Life of golden silence,” January 1).
Wonderful because Ms. Bailey understood the importance of libraries.
Sad because these kinds of donations are necessary. Libraries, school and public, are poorly supported, even though research consistently tells us that when children and adolescents have access to good libraries with plenty of good books and with adequate staffing, they read more. The result is that they do better on reading tests.
For those living in poverty, libraries are often the only source of reading material. The US now has the second highest level of poverty among all “economically advanced” countries, 23.1%: Nearly one in four children lives in poverty.
We keep complaining about children's low reading achievement, and we keep preventing them from improving by failing to support libraries.
Importance of libraries:
Krashen, S., Lee, SY., and McQuillan, J. 2012. Is the library important? Multivariate studies at the national and international level. Journal of Language and Literacy Education, 8(1): 26-36.
Lance, K. C. The Impact of School Libraries on Student Achievement. http://www.lrs.org/impact.php
Levels of child poverty: UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre (2012), ‘Measuring Child Poverty: New league tables of child poverty in the world’s rich countries’, Innocenti Report Card 10, UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre, Florence.
Original article: http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/manhattan/life_of_golden_silence_H1onlfmDEkFn3zpzdN26zH
Life of golden silence
Shocking $20M gift
By BETH DEFALCO
She gave the term hush money a whole new meaning.
For more than a half-century, Mary McConnell Bailey lived an incredibly quiet and unassuming life.
The shy widow, whose husband died in World War II, had no children, lived in a modest apartment on the East Side, and volunteered at a hospital and schools.
She died at age 88 as quietly as she lived. She never wanted an obit.
But she’ll now be remembered as a major philanthropist. She left a $20 million fortune nobody dreamed she had to her favorite New York institutions — the New York Public Library and Central Park.
She died in February 2011. The library and Central Park Conservancy recently got checks for $10 million each.
“You would have never known” she was rich, said her best friend and neighbor, Lizanne Stoll. “When we went to lunch, it was usually dutch. She was very secretive about it all.”
Bailey made it clear that when she died, she didn’t want a funeral.
“She wouldn’t consider it,” Stoll said.
Even the library didn’t know how much she was going to donate.
“I met her many times and had lunch with her twice, but I cannot remember her voice. That’s how soft-spoken she was,” said John Bacon, the library’s director of planned giving.
“She was always neat and careful, but nothing fancy. No jewelry, no nothing. And always a track suit — day, night or otherwise.’’
Half of the money she gave to the library will be used to keep local branches open, Bacon said.
Raised in North Hampton, Mass., Bailey, who came from a moneyed family, moved to the city in the 1940s. She never remarried and largely kept to herself.
She attended Columbia and briefly taught kindergarten in Chelsea, but when her mother died and left her and her siblings a sizable inheritance, she stopped working.
“I think once she had that money set aside, she didn’t give a damn [about it]. She didn’t feel it was hers at all,” Stoll said.
Bailey’s family had owned shares in the Roaring Spring Blank Book Co., which produces the marble-cover notebooks nearly every schoolkid uses.
She found no thrill in spending money on herself.
“Her apartment had that 1950s fresh-out-of-college look. She had nice antiques, but all the art on the walls seemed to be copies from MoMA,” Stoll said.
“Mary didn’t give a damn. It was quixotic. Those were not her priorities.”