James Blackstone Memorial Library Association
758 Main St
Branford CT 06405-3617
Contact Information
Address 758 Main St
Branford, CT 06405-3617
Telephone (203) 488-1441 x312
Fax 203-488-1260
E-mail kjensen@blackstonelibrary.org
Web and Social Media
The James Blackstone Memorial Library provides essential access to information, resources and unique shared experiences to help ensure Branford is an educated and enriched community.
A Great OpportunityHelpThe nonprofit has used this field to provide information about a special campaign, project or event that they are raising funds for now.
The Campaign for the Blackstone is an effort to ensure that the Branford Community can continue to count on the library as a literary, educational, technological and social focal point of the town for decades to come. The Campaign is the fundraising effort designated to pay a portion of the capital cost of renovation and redesign, in addition to funds from the Town of Branford and the State Library.  Two primary groups that will be addressed by these renovations will be Branford's teens and seniors. Both groups are increasingly in need of a place to access technology, programming and meeting spaces. Physical changes to make the facility more accessible to seniors and more accommodating to the needs of teens will be cornerstones of the building improvements.  In addition, families with younger children will find the new children's area to be safer and more age appropriate.
A Great Opportunity Ending Date Mar 01 2019
At A Glance
Year of Incorporation 1896
Organization's type of tax exempt status Exempt-Other
Organization received a competitive grant from the community foundation in the past five years No
CEO/Executive Director Karen Jensen
Board Chair Polly Fitz
Board Chair Company Affiliation Community Volunteer
Financial Summary
Revenue vs Expenses Bar Graph - All Years
Mission The James Blackstone Memorial Library provides essential access to information, resources and unique shared experiences to help ensure Branford is an educated and enriched community.

The James Blackstone Memorial Library was dedicated on June 17, 1896. Built in honor of James Blackstone, a longtime Branford resident, the library’s construction was funded by James’ son, Timothy Beach Blackstone.

The library loans a variety of media including books, CDs, DVDs, museum passes, ebooks, streaming music and movies, digital magazine subscriptions, sewing machines, a telescope, Roku Express+, and hotspots. The reference and children’s areas provide computers and high speed fiber internet access for public use, a scanner, photocopying and printing, and an optelec reader for those with low vision. iPads and laptops are also loaned for use within the library. The Reference department maintains an extensive collection of town and family histories, high school yearbooks and genealogical resources.

The library offers regular programs and workshops on a wide variety of current topics including art lectures, concerts, book discussions, computer instruction, and more. Story hours, book clubs, crafts, movies, science activities and summer reading programs for all ages are held on a regular basis.

Our MakerLab equipment includes a 3D printer, digital video and still camera, green screen and studio lighting, electronics, audio recording, sewing machines, circuitry and electronics equipment. The MakerLab is available to people of all ages who wish to explore and acquire basic technology skills.

Library resources are free to the public and are made possible by a variety of sources. The Town of Branford provides funding for approximately 85% of the annual operating budget. The remainder is funded through a combination of income from the library’s endowment, grants, fundraisers and private donations. The Friends of the Library conduct an annual book sale to raise funds for additional arts programs, materials for the collection and staff development.


The Library maintains its position as a hub of educational and cultural activity in Branford. In FY 2017, we had 10,824 registered cardholders, loaned 226,675 items, and answered 71,237 questions. 12,752 adults and children of all ages attended programs at the library. The library was one of the most active buildings in town with an average of 491 visits per day. Our computers were used 25,531 times to access high speed fiber internet and use of e-resources including HOOPLA, Kanopy, RB digital magazines and Overdrive e-books continues to grow.

The Library reached its capital campaign goal of $800,000 in November 2018. In January, 2019 we began construction on a $5.2 million renovation and addition designed to include a new computer lab, children's and teen areas, additional meeting rooms and a new entrance that allows for a more functional and welcoming connection point to library resources, plus better accessibility from the parking area. The library will remain open throughout the process, and will continue to offer classes and events for all ages, an exceptional collection of media to borrow, and select hands-on, high-tech and low-tech experiences like a hotspots, a telescope and Roku Express+ to borrow, and equipment including electronics kits, video camera and 3D printers to use within the library.

  • The library is fortunate to have strong support from the Town of Branford, but still must raise 15% of its operating budget from private funds. For FY 2019, the amount needed totals $221,564.
  • New members of the Board of Trustees with background and expertise in development and/or historic building preservation.
  • New members of the Board of Trustees with giving capacity, community relationships, volunteering capacity, and/or cultural backgrounds that contribute to greater diversity of the board.
  • Volunteers to help plan and coordinate special fundraising events.
CEO Statement
Housed in a 121 year-old, neoclassical style building featuring a unique domed rotunda with spectacular painted murals, the James Blackstone Memorial Library is a historic and architectural landmark in the town of Branford. The personal connection we have with the community from providing reading suggestions, book discussion groups, lectures, technology instruction, concerts, story times and a variety of unique experiences inspires learning and cultural exploration. Over the next year, the building will undergo a transformation - we are renovating and expanding to better provide 21st century library services. Physical changes to make the library more accessible to seniors and more accommodating to the needs of teens will be cornerstones of the building improvements.  In addition, families with younger children will find the new children's area to be safer and more age appropriate.
Board Chair Statement
The Blackstone Library has been an integral part of the Branford community for well over 100 years and stands as a visible reminder of the value the past generations placed on education and literacy. 
Inside and out, the prominence and fantastic design of the Blackstone tell of the importance not only of reading, but also of engaging in activities with our neighbors, sharing stories with our children, and learning, in all forms and fashions.
Today we have an opportunity to show future generations that we place the same high value on learning, by investing in changes that will keep the Blackstone relevant, and even cutting edge, for decades to come.
Service Categories
Primary Organization Category Education / Libraries
Areas Served
The James Blackstone Memorial Library serves residents of the town of Branford, and surrounding areas. The library's participation in the borrowIT program allows residents of any town in CT to borrow materials from our library.

The James Blackstone Memorial Library holds a collection of 93,088 items, including books, CDs, DVDs, newspapers, magazines, electronic databases, museum passes, equipment and ebooks. In FY 2018, the total circulation was 226,675.

The library offers a variety of programs for education and enrichment, ranging from story times, book discussions for all ages, concerts, art lectures, technology instruction, legal and medical referral, opera appreciation, job search help and much more. 12,752 adults and children attended special programs at the library in FY 2018.

21 computers are available for public use with access to high speed, fiber internet, MS Office software and a variety of databases. 25,531 sessions on these computers were logged in FY 2018. The library owns a collection of 20 iPads, used in regular programs and circulated for use within the library. 14 laptops are included in our Makerlab; they are used for computer classes including 3D printing, video editing, and basic computer skills.

Population Served Adults / Children and Youth (0 - 19 years) / Elderly and/or Disabled
Program is linked to organization’s mission and strategy Yes
Program is frequently assessed based on predetermined program goals Yes
Short Term SuccessHelpOrganizations describe near term achievement(s) or improvement(s) that will result from this program. This may represent immediate outcomes occurring as a result of the end of a session or service. The library will continue to offer opportunities for education and enrichment; relevant programs are planned to match the community's interests and needs, and residents of the town value membership by renewing their card registrations.
Long Term SuccessHelpOrganizations describe the ultimate change(s) that will result from this program. This may be far into the future and represent an ideal state. The community of Branford will be educated and enriched through the information, resources and unique shared experiences provided through the library.
Program Success Monitored ByHelpOrganizations describe the tools used to measure or track program impact. Materials circulation will continue to reach over 200,000 each year, registered cardholders are no less than 10,000 residents, and program attendance continues to draw over 12,000 people each year.
Examples of Program SuccessHelpOrganization's site specific examples of changes in clients' behaviors or testimonies of client's changes to demonstrate program success. Comments from our patrons: "Upon my first visit to Branford, I fell in love with the town in part because of the first impression that the Blackstone Library made upon me."  "The staff here is excellent." "Children's programs are great."  Super service of home delivery of requested materials."  "A great library softens the sharp edges of age."
Program Comments
CEO Comments

The Blackstone Library has not undergone significant renovation since 1996. In the time since those changes, the role filled by community libraries across the country has changed dramatically, mainly due to rapid innovation driving technological developments.

While the need to offer patrons access to a wider array of technology is clear, these changes have also created a greater need for libraries to serve as community meeting spaces and resource centers.  In the next year, our focus will be on adapting and improving a 19th century building to accommodate 21st century technology and community needs.
CEO/Executive Director
Karen Jensen
Term Start Jan 2013
Email kjensen@blackstonelibrary.org
Experience Karen was hired as the Blackstone Library's director in 2013.  She graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a bachelor’s degree in communications and she has a master’s degree in library science from Southern CT State University. Prior to becoming a librarian, Karen worked in advertising and sales. Her library experience includes the Lucy Robbins Welles Library in Newington where she started her career as a reference librarian, the Plumb Memorial Library in Shelton where she was the assistant director for seven years, and the Hagaman Library in East Haven, where she was the director for four years.  Karen is an active member of the Branford Rotary Club and Shoreline Chamber of Commerce. She served as President of the CT Library Association in 2017.
Number of Full Time Staff 14
Number of Part Time Staff 9
Number of Volunteers 6
Staff Retention Rate 100%
Staff Demographics - Ethnicity
African American/Black 0
Asian American/Pacific Islander 0
Caucasian 23
Hispanic/Latino 0
Native American/American Indian 0
Other 0 0
Staff Demographics - Gender
Male 1
Female 22
Unspecified 0
Former CEOs and Terms
Donna LolosJuly 1999 - Apr 2003
Kathy ReigerAug 2003 - June 2012
Formal Evaluations
CEO Formal Evaluation Yes
CEO/Executive Formal Evaluation Frequency Annually
Senior Management Formal Evaluation Yes
Senior Management Formal Evaluation Frequency Annually
Non Management Formal Evaluation Yes
Non Management Formal Evaluation Frequency Annually
A variety of organizations support the library through programming and philanthropy, including the Menunkatuck Audubon Society, Tilde Cafe, Shoreline Arts Alliance, Branford Land Trust, Branford Historical Society, CT Works, VNA Healthcare, CT Library Association, CT Library Consortium, Yale University, Friends of the James Blackstone Memorial Library, Branford Public Schools, Branford Community Television, Seedlings Foundation, Guilford Savings Bank, Branford Rotary Club, Allen Louis Loeb Foundation, The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven and many individual donors and volunteers.
Board Chair
Polly Fitz
Company Affiliation Community Volunteer
Term July 2019 to June 2020
Board of Directors
Maryann Amoreretired
Sandra BaldwinRetired
Dr. Norman DahlDr. Norman Dahl III, DDS PC & Friends
Elizabeth FergusonSmilow Cancer Hospital
Matthew Hughes
Mary-Rita KilleleaCommunity Volunteer
Ed KirkAqua Comfort Technologies
Beth LawCedarhurst School at Yale University
Rick MahoneyRetired
Heather NolinYale University
Patricia SandersRetired
Adam SpilkaAttorney At Law
Frank TwohillAttorney in Private Practice
Gina WellsMedical Associates
Board Demographics - Ethnicity
African American/Black 0
Asian American/Pacific Islander 0
Caucasian 15
Hispanic/Latino 0
Native American/American Indian 0
Other 0 0
Board Demographics - Gender
Male 6
Female 9
Unspecified 0
Board Term Lengths 3
Board Term Limits 2
Written Board Selection Criteria Under Development
Written Conflict of Interest Policy Yes
Percentage Making Monetary Contributions 100%
Percentage Making In-Kind Contributions 100%
Constituency Includes Client Representation Yes
Standing Committees
Board Governance
Fiscal Year Start July 01 2019
Fiscal Year End June 30 2020
Projected Revenue $1,675,679.00
Projected Expenses $1,675,679.00
Spending Policy Percentage
Percentage (if selected) 5%
Credit Line No
Reserve Fund Yes
Detailed Financials
Prior Three Years Assets and Liabilities Chart
Fiscal Year201820172016
Total Assets$6,441,363$5,987,360$5,823,572
Current Assets$594,221$419,828$318,982
Long-Term Liabilities$0----
Current Liabilities$661,667$194,910$117,098
Total Net Assets$5,779,696$5,792,450$5,706,474
Prior Three Years Top Three Funding Sources
Fiscal Year201820172016
Top Funding Source & Dollar Amount --Town of Branford $1,393,983Friends of Blackstone Library $25,414
Second Highest Funding Source & Dollar Amount --Friends of the Blackstone Library $22,489 --
Third Highest Funding Source & Dollar Amount -- -- --
Capitial Campaign
Currently in a Capital Campaign? No
Capital Campaign Anticipated in Next 5 Years? No
Foundation Staff Comments This profile, including the financial summaries prepared and submitted by the organization based on its own independent and/or internal audit processes and regulatory submissions, has been read by the Foundation. Some financial information from the organization’s IRS Form 990, audited financial statements or other financial documents approved has been inputted by Foundation staff. The Foundation has not audited the organization’s financial statements or tax filings, and makes no representations or warranties thereon. A more complete picture of the organization’s finances can be obtained by viewing the attached 990s and audited financials. To see if the organization has received a competitive grant from The Community Foundation in the last five years, please go to the General Information Tab of the profile.
Address 758 Main St
Branford, CT 064053617
Primary Phone 203 488-1441 312
CEO/Executive Director Karen Jensen
Board Chair Polly Fitz
Board Chair Company Affiliation Community Volunteer


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