The library is one of 24 who will now compete for an award of up to $50,000. Public voting is happening now.

STAFF PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER OERTELL - Cornelius Library Foundation President Richard Meyer speaks during a construction site visit in July in the future space of the Cornelius Public Library.The Cornelius Library Foundation could get a shot in the arm from a nationwide contest as it works to raise money for the new library building now under construction on North Adair Street., a nonprofit organization based in California, recently announced a slate of 24 semifinalists for its Gen2Gen Encore Prize. In the annual competition, organizations and programs from across the United States compete for an award of up to $50,000.

The library foundation, which supports the Cornelius Public Library, applied for consideration in May, according to library director Karen Hill.

"They had 110 applicants originally, and they've narrowed it down to 24," Hill said.

After judges winnowed the field, it's now up to the voting public to send at least one of the semifinalists to Los Angeles in November. Hill said the top vote-getter — which is, as of Friday morning, Sept. 14, the Cornelius Library — is guaranteed a spot in the top five and an award of at least $10,000. Four more finalists will be chosen by judges.

In November, representatives from each of the finalists will make their pitch to judges with a public presentation. The judges' favorite will win a $50,000 prize. The four runners-up will each get $10,000. An additional $10,000 will be awarded to the audience's choice.

Hill said if the Cornelius Library is awarded, the money will go toward the new building, which is scheduled for completion in late winter or spring.

"We would apply it toward the capital campaign," Hill said. "It's considered a prize, so you can use the funds to support the project any way you want, and for us, it's all about getting the building complete and the space to offer the different programs."

Just by dint of reaching the semifinals, Hill said, she considers the library to already be a winner. Public voting gives each of the 24 semifinalists a degree of exposure they wouldn't have gotten otherwise, and Hill said provides some training and coaching for semifinalists and finalists as well.

The Cornelius Library currently occupies about 3,000 square feet in an aging building that also houses some city offices. The new three-story building, which is being erected just to the south of the existing library, will provide 14,000 square feet of library space. It will also house a YMCA center, as well as 45 apartments that will be designated for people ages 55 and older who have low or limited incomes.

"The application really helped us focus on what programs we did want to offer there, and so we've come up with several potential programs that just are really exciting that will connect the seniors above us, as well as the seniors elsewhere, with the youth in our community," Hill said, suggesting seniors could help out with activities for young library patrons or even teach workshops at the new library.

The idea of connecting seniors with youth fits with the stated mission of "to tap the talent of people 50+ as a force for good." The name of the competition, Gen2Gen, broadly refers to building connections between young people and older adults.

Those interested in viewing the Cornelius Library Foundation's application can vote or donate on the Gen2Gen Encore Prize website.

By Mark Miller
Editor, Forest Grove News-Times
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