Stories

Tom DeChant: Libraries Will Require Growing Support

Longtime Madison resident Tom DeChant became involved with Madison Public Library Foundation before the Goodman South Madison Library was rebuilt in 2010. He joined the board of directors soon after, and has served as vice president and president.

DeChant, who is retired from a career in space planning consulting, says he decided to become a Silas Pinney Legacy Society member and leave a gift to the foundation because he believes public libraries will only continue to grow in relevance as a critical community resource.

“They are in a period of profound transition right now, from their traditional role as a ‘pantry’ of stored media to an active ‘kitchen’ of community participation and ‘doing,’ ” he says. “This transition will take a while and will put a strain on library resources — especially for sustaining new
programmatic initiatives.”

Buildings and collections have been the traditional targets of library gift-giving, and they will continue to be needed, DeChant says. But the evolving library will be much more engaged in programs and activities, which will require more community resources.

“I see my legacy gift as helping to build a sustainable foundation for these new library functions,” he says, adding that he hopes it will support innovative library programs and services that further young peoples’ educational, cultural and career opportunities while engaging them in their communities.

Madison Public Library is an especially worthy organization to leave a gift to because it’s a national leader in library innovation under the skilled guidance of Library Director Gregory Mickells, DeChant says. He cites the Bubbler makerspace programming, the Media Lab and social services outreach to the homeless as examples. He’s particularly excited about the library’s newer youth social justice programs and its role in helping train visiting nurses in early childhood literacy.

Library Website