In celebration of the foundation’s 30th birthday this year, we’re looking back at important moments in our history. One of these was the opening of Alicia Ashman Library in 2000 — a project that set a new private fundraising benchmark for public libraries in Madison.

“It was really a community effort to get the library built,” said former Madison Ald. Susan Hamlin. During her tenure on the Common Council from 1991–2001, Hamlin made it a priority to establish library services on Madison’s far west side. 

Alongside project Co-Chair Donna Gray and former Madison Public Library Board President Tripp Widder, Hamlin worked to secure a spot in a neighborhood shopping center. While commercial businesses didn’t want the corner lot, the large space was perfect for a new library.

As part of its $1.5 million fundraising effort, the foundation worked with Madison entrepreneurs Terrance and Judith Paul to name the library in honor of Alicia Ashman, a longtime Library Board and former Common Council member, who passed away in 2016.

On October 11, 2000, Ashman and Hamlin cut the grand opening ribbon together. According to Hamlin, Alicia Ashman Library’s opening represented one example of libraries becoming not only places for literacy, but for community and connection.

“Madison was built on a neighborhood concept,” Hamlin said, “and libraries contribute to that neighborhood concept.”