A local couple has donated $100,000 to make a library’s facilities and materials more accessible to people needing hearing, vision or other physical accommodations. 

Dr. Jon and Suzette Igelman of Richmond have created a fund at Morrisson-Reeves Library (MRL) so the building at 80 N. Sixth St. can be an even more inclusive space for Wayne County residents. 

MRL Director Dena Little said this is the largest individual contribution to a library that she’s experienced during her career.

Little called the Igelmans’ gift “significant” and “incredibly generous.” (For some historical perspective, the name “Reeves” was added to the library’s name after Caroline Reeves donated $30,000 in 1893.) 

Little said the new fund also is special because it’s designated for needs that donors rarely support intentionally. 

The donation creates the Suzette Igelman Fund for Library Accessibility, a gift that Jon made in honor of his wife of 67 years. 

Jon, who grew up in Richmond, met Suzette, a Connersville native, while both were students at Indiana University. After Jon completed medical school, he says Suzanne graciously handled all the frequent moves during his 20 years of serving the military, followed by 20 years of work in California. 

After his 1994 retirement, they chose to return to eastern Indiana and have been extremely happy with that decision as they enjoy local activities and amenities. 

The couple gradually became aware of another way to help the community after Suzette received a macular degeneration diagnosis a few years ago. Her vision rapidly deteriorated, which ended her ability to drive and made reading very difficult. 

“She has always been a true bibliophile and loved books,” Jon said. “They have been such an important part of her life.” 

To continue reading as long as possible, Suzette, a longtime library supporter and volunteer at Friends of MRL book sales, began seeking out large-print materials and additional magnification equipment.    

Jon began thinking that there must be a lot of other people with reduced vision like Suzette. He wondered how they could use a library.  

Jon began talking with longtime reference librarian Steve Martin about his questions. Martin began research and shared Igelman’s questions with Little and Information Services Manager Melissa Hunt. 

The trio “did a lot of digging,” Jon said, and contacted larger libraries across the country for ideas. For instance, they learned some libraries offer a special section for people with visual challenges.

Appreciating their research and ideas, Jon decided to give the library $100,000 to develop a program to serve local residents facing various accessibility challenges. 

Through an announcement of their donation, the Igelmans hope to inspire additional community contributions toward MRL’s future accessibility needs and increase awareness of the library’s existing resources for those patrons.   

The new fund will be used toward cutting-edge accessibility technology and its installation costs. 

Although Little said the library currently has a good selection of large-print materials for patrons, the new fund could help expand that collection, and plans are being made to buy large and handheld magnification equipment for patrons’ use.  

In addition, library staff are making immediate and long-range plans with the funds to assist those with hearing loss. 

This year, MRL plans to purchase some personal FM auditory systems that can be used during programs happening throughout the library. 

The library also is earmarking a portion of the Igelmans’ fund to install a telecoil loop system during an upcoming renovation of the Harriet E. Bard Room. 

The lower-level Bard Room is the library’s largest gathering spot where many programs take place. Some events are organized by library staff as MRL functions. Community organizations also may ask to reserve the Bard Room or other rooms inside the library for their own events.   

The telecoil loop, also known as a “T loop,” would be a significant addition to MRL. It amplifies sound for hard-of-hearing individuals through their hearing aids, allowing them to better enjoy presentations, speakers and other experiences. 

MRL staff say all those improvements will ensure people with varying needs can fully engage with its resources and events.

“This donation marks a significant milestone in our ongoing mission to make the library a welcoming and accessible place for everyone in our community,” Little said. “The addition of this new technology will greatly enhance our ability to serve patrons of all needs levels. We cannot thank Jon and Suzette enough for their continued support.”

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A version of this article appeared in the January 31 2024 print edition of the Western Wayne News.

Millicent Martin Emery is a reporter and editor for the Western Wayne News.