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Paul G. Allen Foundation honors library supporter

Merris Sumrall, CEO of the Library Foundation in Multnomah County, receives Creative Leadership Award


by: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - Merris Sumrall, CEO of the Library Foundation, shows her Multnomah County library card. Sumrall recently received a Creative Leadership Award from the Paul G. Allen Foundation.Southeast Portland resident Merris Sumrall's work to establish a permanent funding base for Multnomah County libraries has helped to earn her a prestigious award from the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation.

The Allen Family Foundation announced the honor this month and is also donating $50,000 to the Library Foundation in Multnomah County.

In making the award, the Allen Family Foundation noted Sumrall's years of effort to establish a library district in Multnomah County to provide a permanent and stable funding source for the Central Library and 18 branch libraries.

"Merris Sumrall, CEO of The Library Foundation, saw a problem with a solution," according to a press release from the Allen Foundation. "She set her sights on mobilizing a small, nimble nonprofit, and a huge community of library supporters, for an ambitious effort that some advisors and opinion leaders said was not possible. She worked with steely determination to persuade philanthropists, politicians and opinion leaders to support stable, dedicated funding for this award-winning library system."

Sumrall and the Library Foundation helped lead the charge in 2012 for a voter-approved library district, which allows the library to collect operational revenues independently of the regular county budget.

The press release from the Allen Family Foundation also noted that the Multnomah County library system, like libraries across the nation, had been subject to budget cuts and unstable funding prior to passge of the library district measure.

During the 2012 campaign, the press release states, Sumrall "envisioned ways that every library supporter could step forward and show their friends and neighbors why support for the library was crucial — even in tough economic times.

"On July 1, Multnomah County Library once again opened its doors seven days a week with restored hours, stable funding and a newly created permanent library district."

The Allen Foundation's Creative Leadership Awards recognize innovative nonprofit organizations and individuals in the Pacific Northwest who are taking risks and making a meaningful impact in their communities.

The other 2013 individual awardee is Lisa Daugaard, founder of the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion program in Seattle. The foundation also recognized two Washington organizations: the Pierce County Library System in Tacoma and ReUse Works in Bellingham.

Sumrall said Wednesday that the $50,000 grant from the Allen Foundation was an unrestricted gift that comes on top of two Allen grants that already are being put to good use by the Library Foundation.

"One is helping the library shape their newest readers' advisory service, including the launch of their personal librarians. The other is investigating and testing new ways that the library can partner with schools and strengthen their work with educators, parents and children," Sumrall said.

For more information on the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, visit www.pgafamilyfoundation.org .

For more about the Library Foundation, find it on the web at www.libraryfoundation.org.