Charlotte Mecklenburg Library Foundation announces The CommonSpark campaign, unveils new library design

Mecklenburg County, Knight Foundation kick off funding for $135 million initiative to improve lives and strengthen community through libraries

Image: Rendering of new Main Library design. Design Architect: Snøhetta; Architect of Record: Clark Nexsen; Rendering: LMNB Copyright: Snøhetta

Charlotte, NC – November 7, 2019 – The Charlotte Mecklenburg Library Foundation today unveiled the design of a new, technology-forward main library as it launched The CommonSpark, a $135 million public-private partnership to ignite change within the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library system.

Mecklenburg County committed $65 million to the project, and the Library Foundation invites all who believe in the power of libraries to join the comprehensive campaign. The John S. and James L. Foundation invested $10 million to help make the Main Library a model for the 21st century, an inviting public space for all Charlotte residents, equipped with the latest digital technology.

“The Library is so important to the community because it provides access to opportunity, to education, to learning that people wouldn’t get anywhere else,” said Dena Diorio, Mecklenburg County Manager. “I’m most excited about the vision for this 21st century library.”

The CommonSpark campaign and the design of the new Main Library were revealed at the Library Foundation’s annual Verse & Vino fundraising event on November 7, 2019 at the Charlotte Convention Center. The new facility is slated to open in 2024 on the site of the current Main Library at 310 North Tryon Street in uptown Charlotte. 

“Time and time again our Library Foundation is a difference-maker, raising support for the Library, broadening awareness of its activities and contributions, and growing its friends, fans and partners,” said Library CEO Lee Keesler. “The private funds the Foundation is raising to complement public funds from Mecklenburg County will transform an architecturally distinctive, state-of-the-art, technologically advanced new main library from good to great.”

“Informed and engaged communities are vital to healthy democracy, and libraries vital to informed and engaged communities,” said Alberto Ibargüen, Knight Foundation president. “The new Charlotte Mecklenburg Library will be open, inviting, and focused on digital – it will meet people where they are and be relevant to their lives.”

Since 2002, Knight Foundation has invested $1.5 million in the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library, including $250,000 in the process of envisioning the 21st century urban library, a critical early step in the planning for the new Main Library.

Together with support from Mecklenburg County, today’s announcement from Knight Foundation brings the CommonSpark campaign to 67 percent of the overall project goal. 


The CommonSpark campaign addresses an integrated set of needs:

  • New Main Library: a tech-forward civic destination and gateway to reimagined North Tyron Street corridor 
  • Support Services Center: to maximize public space in the new Main Library, many behind-the-scenes functions will move offsite
  • Technology, Innovation and Programming: throughout the Library’s 20 locations
  • Endowment for the Future: funds generate a permanent source of revenue for evolving needs
  • Annual Library Operating Support

The CommonSpark campaign committee consists of more than 60 civic leaders, led by volunteer co-chairs Charles Bowman, Market President at Bank of America; Rob Harrington, Partner at Robinson Bradshaw; and Holly Welch Stubbing, Executive Vice President and In-house Counsel at Foundation For The Carolinas.

Campaign co-chair Charles Bowman says, “This campaign is building toward a vision for our city. My dream is that we become the most literate city in America. That would be a defining moment. We talk about our brand and we have so much here in Charlotte – but what if you could say to people ‘I live in the most educated, literate city in America.’”

The project is directly aligned with community priorities and opening doors to opportunity. The CommonSpark campaign co-chair Holly Welch Stubbing explains, “This project appeals to the philanthropic community because it includes an amazing set of opportunities to connect to career pathways, post-secondary success, entrepreneurship, writing and creative thinking, civic engagement, connection to our history…you can find your giving strategy in this building.”

The Library Foundation anticipates engagement in the campaign and individual investment at every level, from all parts of the community. Co-chair Rob Harrington observes, “The Library is not just a public building, it’s the community’s building. Everyone has an opportunity to participate in this campaign and help make our Library all it can be.”

More information can be found at along with news, a project overview and frequently asked questions. Questions about the CommonSpark campaign and how to make a gift should be directed to Karen Beach, CFRE, Charlotte Mecklenburg Library Foundation Deputy Director at 704-416-0802 or [email protected].

About Charlotte Mecklenburg Library Foundation

The Charlotte Mecklenburg Library Foundation exists to help the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library improve lives and build a stronger community. Created as a non-profit 501(c)(3) in September 2012 in partnership with Foundation For The Carolinas and Charlotte Mecklenburg Library, the Foundation supports Library services, expands the Library’s collection of print and digital materials, enhances programming for all ages, invests in innovative initiatives and strives to grow its endowment for future generations. For more, visit

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation is a national foundation with strong local roots. We invest in journalism, in the arts, and in the success of cities where brothers John S. and James L. Knight once published newspapers. Our goal is to foster informed and engaged communities, which we believe are essential for a healthy democracy. For more, visit


Media Contacts:

Melanie Baron
Marketing & Communications Specialist
Charlotte Mecklenburg Library Foundation
(704) 416-0804
Email: [email protected]

Lauren Dickinson
Communications Officer
The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
Email: [email protected]