“I want to see the kids finding another world – it makes me happy.”

Library tourism is a thing for Audry and Andy Carter. On their travels, the Harrisburg couple visits local libraries, gauging the community’s well-being and commitment according to the library’s condition and the innovations at work.

Audry’s future favorite could be Dauphin County Library System’s expanded, renovated McCormick Riverfront Library and the Haldeman Haly House in downtown Harrisburg. In the meantime, the dramatically cantilevered Central Library of Halifax, Canada, beckons with café, reading nooks, and rooftop patio.

“I thought if I lived here, this is a place I could come and feel comfortable and meet people, read, borrow books,” she says. “Halifax is a vibrant city, and the library is very reflective of that.”

For Audry, a tour of the imaginative redo of McCormick-Haldeman sparked an inspiration. She admits it was impetuous, but she donated in honor of her husband, Andy, to name the new Children’s Story Circle and presented the fait accompli to her husband for his birthday.

“I had taken a rendering of the children’s floor and literally circled the circle,” she says of the surprise gift. “Andy was very verklempt, shall we say.”

But, adds the nonprofit fundraiser and chair of the Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority overseeing the city’s financial recovery, “sometimes it’s better to make a sizeable contribution and try to make a difference than to sow many seeds and do a little bit here and there.”   

What does this project say about the city of Harrisburg and Dauphin County? The Library’s renovation is another one of those jewels that Harrisburg has and is a wonderful sign that the city is still alive. A lot of people like to think that the city is done, that it’s still trying to eke out an existence after the incinerator fiasco, but there are enough signs that tell us this is a vibrant city, and we’re going to go places.

How do you envision the impact of the project? The Library really wanted to accommodate and reimagine itself as helping all parts of the community. That meant taking a moment to say, “What do we need to do for the youth, for the young folks?” And we’ve got homeless people. What do we need to do to make sure that all of our members feel comfortable when they come in? I appreciated the effort evolving from just providing access to information. Now, it’s engaging in information. It’s entertaining from information. And it’s providing a safe space. 

What impressed you most about the project? It shows such an appreciation for preserving the old while accommodating the new needs. I love old buildings and would have hated to have seen either one of these buildings torn down, which a lot of times actually is cheaper than renovating. For them to take on raising all this money during COVID and suffering a lot of increased costs given what COVID did to the supply chain – hats off, because that’s a big lift for a city of Harrisburg’s size.

Why did you decide to make this generous gift? I’ve been a fundraiser all my life. Ten years into my career, I worked with a gentleman coming up with a gift for the college where I worked. He wrote me a thank you note afterwards, and, I thought, “Geez, why would you write me a thank you note?” It was because I helped him find this perfect gift that made him so happy. That’s how I feel about this. That’s why it was so easy to make. It made me feel good, and that’s what giving should do. It should make you feel good.

What does the dedicated children’s area mean for kids? I said to Nick DiFrancesco (community engagement specialist) that I want to come to this maker’s space. I want to play with clay. I want to be able to paint. The thought of someone sitting there and reading to children, maybe the mayor or a county commissioner, and to see the kids finding another world – it makes me happy.