Marathon Public Library receives $1 million gift, announces capital campaign

MARATHON — Marathon Public Library announced this week that it received a $1 million capital gift from the Dallas-based Prentice Farrar Brown and Alline Ford Brown Foundation for its Heart of Marathon campaign, a $2+ million fundraising initiative to enlarge the Marathon Public Library and revitalize the Marathon History Museum. The campaign launched in late 2019, just prior to the pandemic, which delayed the campaign’s public announcement. 

“We are so grateful to the Dallas-based Prentice Farrar Brown and Alline Ford Brown Foundation for its extraordinary commitment to our library,” said Library Director Dara Cavness. “While it’s been fun to boast that we are the smallest accredited library in Texas, it’s even more exciting to think about what will be possible once our new library is built. There is simply no more room for one more book, computer or even visitor in a building that is a mere 723-square feet!” 

The library anticipates breaking ground on the expansion in late 2024, said Cavness. An additional $1 million, approximately, will likely be necessary to complete the project — the library will continue fundraising efforts to that end.

In 2022, the library attracted 13,623 patron visits, a 40% increase since 2019, and 7,129 computer users, a 29% increase. While Heart of Marathon was developed in part to address the size of the library, the library board of directors was equally committed to help meet the growing and changing needs of its small community. As a result of their planning efforts, the board launched a campaign with an expansive vision: “To connect, inspire and empower people to make a difference in the world.”  

In Phase I of Heart of Marathon, campaign funds will build a new library to meet this increasing demand, particularly among children, for library services and programs. The new library, designed by award winning Dallas-based architect Dan Shipley with Shipley Architects, will include an adult reading room, three distinct areas for infants, children and teens, expanded stacks for the collections, increased numbers of computer workstations, a multi-purpose community room, and covered porches for outdoor seating and an outdoor garden. 

“We believe that education is the key to success in life,” said Cavness. “We strongly believe that these investments in our library, as well as the museum, can help improve learning outcomes for our children, help adults and families achieve work and life success and encourage one and all to gain a greater understanding of the past in order to better embrace the future.” 

The campaign also will transform the History Museum, which is housed in an adjacent 1888 adobe structure that is the oldest school building in Brewster County. Its new exhibits and touchscreen presentation will focus on the Trans-Pecos region, Native Americans, exploration and settlement, Big Bend National Park, and the history of Marathon. Upgrades to the museum will likely require around $1 million, said Cavness.

“I am inspired by what this gift will help make possible for this community and its residents and visitors,” said Cavness. “This gift, when joined with the generosity of others, will help us meet our growing and changing needs. We aspire to set the standard for strengthening a community and its people.”  

When asked whether she anticipates the library closing during construction, Cavness said, “Not if I can help it!” Because the construction will be for an addition to the library, not on the current space, the library should remain open and functional throughout. 

“I think we’re going to build on the addition but not connect the two until the very last thing, so we can at all times have a working library,” said Cavness.