December 2009

Cowell Foundation to Match Library Donations

By Ben Terrall

Despite the bad economy, the S.J. Cowell Foundation remains steadfast in its support of Friends of the San Francisco Public Library (FSFPL), a membership-based nonprofit that helps sustain the City’s library system.  Over the last two years FSFPL has facilitated fundraising to furnish and equip the renovated Potrero Branch, with the Cowell Foundation pledging a matching grant for that effort.  SFFPL needs to raise $50,000 by December 15 to receive $25,000 from Cowell.  

The Cowell Foundation also funds BRIDGE Housing, which is working on the Rebuild Potrero project that, according to its website, “plans to replace all 606 existing public housing apartments and integrate additional affordable and market-rate homes into the community along with amenities such as open space, neighborhood services, and retail opportunities” (see related article this issue).

According to Lise Maisano, Cowell’s vice president of grant programs, the foundation focuses on “place-based grant making.” The library upgrade is “investing in the long term health and well being of children” in the community.  “Over the next several years [Cowell] will look for other grant making opportunities [on Potrero Hill] in our priority areas,” she said.

According to Mary Abler, SFFPL neighborhood library campaign organizer, Potrero is one of 24 branch libraries being upgraded to meet Americans with Disabilities and seismic retrofitting requirements.  The original two story Potrero library had no elevator, with a single set of public restrooms on the second floor.  The renovated branch will be wheelchair accessible, and feature an elevator, family restroom on the ground floor and gender-designated restrooms on the second floor, new windows, higher ceilings, a new teen section, and more shelf space for books.  The San Francisco Arts Commission selected a sculpture by Gina Telcocci to be installed at the branch.

The remodeled Potrero Branch will also include more computers and wi-fi.  The children’s section will have an interactive wall installation – similar to the one at the main branch – to help promote literacy skills.  A new atrium and skylight will provide natural light, and a program room will be available for community meetings after-hours. According to Potrero Branch manager Lia Hillman, the new view of the City is gorgeous, extending to the Golden Gate Bridge.  Hillman, who currently serves as the temporarily interim children’s room manager at the Mission Branch Library, will return to the Potrero Branch when it reopens this spring.

To make a contribution to the Potrero library, go to or call 626.7512 x107.


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