County of Marin - News Releases - Largest Library Donation

For Immediate Release
October 25, 2016

County Accepts its Largest Library Donation

Family trust gift of $661,419 goes toward Corte Madera branch

San Rafael, CA – The Marin County Free Library (MCFL) has received its largest single donation ever – $661,419, from the family trust of a deceased Marin couple – and intends to honor the bequest by using the funds to support its Corte Madera branch.

Youth Services Librarian Sara Butts (left) and Branch Manager Julie Magnus smile at the Corte Madera Library.Youth Services Librarian Sara Butts (left) and Branch Manager Julie Magnus help operate the Corte Madera Library, which is the recipient of the Zimmer's gift.

The Marin County Board of Supervisors formally accepted the trust bequest during its October 25 meeting.

John E. and Jan Zimmer, who lived in the unincorporated Almonte neighborhood near Mill Valley, specified that one-third of their trust should be bequeathed to the Corte Madera Library. MCFL Director Sara Jones was notified of the gift on September 18 and shared the news with Marin County Library Commission on October 12.

“We’re overwhelmed by this generosity and deeply grateful that the Zimmers recognized the value of libraries to our communities,” Jones said. “We will ensure that that the Corte Madera branch will continue to provide a welcoming environment to engage in life-long learning and literacy.”

Jones said the gift is “perfect timing” because the Marin County Library Foundation recently has been reinvigorated to address the many needs of aging MCFL facilities. The Corte Madera branch, now more than 41 years old, is at the top of the list for improving or replacing, she said.

John E. Zimmer, a U.S. Army and National Guard veteran who worked most of his career with the City of San Francisco Housing Authority, died in 2015. Jan, a successful commercial artist, died in 2011. Family members and friends described them as being big fans of libraries; a cousin in Ohio said John learned how to use a computer at the library while in his 70s and found inspirations for the couple’s world travels.

The Zimmers left 80 percent of their estate, valued at more than $3 million, to be split equally among the Corte Madera Library, the Mill Valley Library and the Larkspur Library. The Mill Valley and Larkspur libraries are operated independently of MCFL by those cities.

Jones said the total value of in-kind donations by the nonprofit Friends of the Marin County Free Library through the years certainly would amount to a similar sum if it were aggregated over their years of support. Friends’ volunteer hours and annual membership fees allow for the continued operation of the Book Place, a used bookstore in Novato, and support library programs and services at MCFL branches.

MCFL accepted a $345,912 donation from the trust of Corte Madera Library patron Armand Cello in 2004. The funds are being used to purchase materials for the public, including high-demand items that are circulated as the Cello Collection, as the donor requested. The trust of Fairfax Library patron Lucille S. Buchanan donated $123,477 in 2006 toward materials that were in great demand and Fairfax branch upgrades. Those are the only other six-figure gifts documented in MCFL’s archives.

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Sara Jones
Marin County Free Library

3501 Civic Center Drive
San Rafael, CA 94903
(415) 473-6051
Email: Sara Jones
Library website