Behind the New York Life Foundation’s Local Library Funding

The New York Life Foundation, the grantmaking arm of the New York Life Insurance Company, has a couple of the most unique youth-focused grantmaking programs in the city. One of the foundation’s biggest initiatives is all about helping eighth graders transition to ninth grade. The foundation also makes huge contributions to bereavement programs for children who have lost loved ones.

But aside from these two highly specific focus areas, NYLF is a big supporter of local libraries. New York’s libraries serve a diverse range of populations, including immigrants, the elderly, and the unemployed. However, NYLF is only concerned with library programs that nurture the city’s children. Let’s explore two recent library grants to learn more about how this funder chooses to support those big buildings with books.

$400,000 Grant to the Brooklyn Public Library

In June 2014, the New York Life Foundation awarded a $400,000 grant to the Brooklyn Public Library to expand the Brooklyn Connections Program, which is targeted at high-need public school students. This two-year grant went toward a school outreach initiative that offered middle school students rare access to original archival materials that document the borough’s development from its earliest days through a variety of media.The program is also neatly tied together with Common Core standards.

These have been identified as the high-needs target areas in Brooklyn: Brownsville, Canarsie, Cypress Hills, New Lots, Spring Creek, and Weeksville/Bedford-Stuyvesant. The Brooklyn Connections program has increased its network of partner schools to over 30 schools this year. Since the program was established in 2007, NYLF has donated over $900,000.

“Brooklyn Public Library’s effort to provide the borough’s most high-need middle school students with research and critical thinking skills they will utilize now and in their future academic and professional careers is in line with our efforts to prepare these students for post-secondary success,” said Heather Nesle, President of the New York Life Foundation.

$200,000 to the New York Public Library

In September 2014, NYLF awarded a $200,000 grant to the New York Public Library to support its after-school programming for middle school students. Again, middle school students are the specific focus of this foundation’s grantmaking strategy. This grant is being used to fund one-on-one and small-group tutoring programs to improve academic performance. Technology resources, group enrichment activities, and educational field trips are also part of the deal.

“The NYPL’s Enrichment Zones help students during their crucial middle school years, which often determine whether or not they stay in school in the future,” Nesle explained.

NYLF funded “Enrichment Zones” are currently available in five neighborhoods: Seward Park and Inwood libraries in Manhattan, the High Bridge and Mott Haven libraries in the Bronx, and the Port Richmond Library in Staten Island. Five more locations are set to open next year.

So although library funding may seem like a departure from the specialized funding areas of this foundation, it all comes together around New York middle school students. To learn more about NYLF funding in New York City and Westchester County, check out IP’s Profile of the New York Life Foundation