For many years after it was founded, the Public Library in Indianapolis had a gift fund consisting primarily of memorial gifts and some special donations, most of which were used for the purchase of books and other Library materials. The first gift came in 1872 from the Indianapolis Library Association. Subsequent gifts over the years included collections of valuable or rare books, bound periodicals, a collection of medical books from the Medical Association, paintings, sculptures, musical scores, recordings and a large assortment of other memorabilia. Monetary gifts made to the Public Library during its first 100 years were unsolicited, but nevertheless welcome.

In 1956, Harold Sander took over as Director of Public Libraries and carried with him the hope of establishing a Foundation to encourage gifts, bequests and endowments to the Public Library. Like the Library Foundation in Roanoke, Virginia, where he had been director of the Library for several years, it would be an organization that could assure the continued growth of the Library and provide for constantly expanding services and facilities. He saw the Foundation as a vehicle to stimulate public support for the Library, disseminate information about the Library to the public, increase the resources of the Library through gifts and bequests, increase awareness of current resources and encourage an appreciation of Library services.

However, it was not until 1968 that Mr. Sander could proceed with his plan to establish a Library Foundation. At that time, the Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library was established, following the separation of the Indianapolis Public Library as an entity of the Indianapolis Board of School Commissioners. Planning and organization for the Foundation began that year, and on February 25, 1969, the Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library Foundation was officially established as a not-for-profit corporation, and its Certificate of Incorporation was issued by the Secretary of the State of Indiana. Mr. Sander chaired the first meeting of the Library Foundation’s Board of Directors that day. The Board had been selected by Mr. Sander and was made up of a cross-section of leaders who provided a high community profile and could best advance the purposes for which the Foundation was established.

In November 1992, the Foundation Board of Directors hired Danny R. Dean as the first staff member and President of the Library Foundation. For six years, the staff consisted of the President and an Administrative Assistant. During this period, the Library Foundation’s annual revenues doubled, and its net assets grew more than threefold. In 1999, an Office Manager was hired, followed by a Vice President of Development in 2000. When a capital campaign (also known as The Imagine Campaign) was initiated in 2002 to raise funds for the expansion and renovation of Central Library, a Campaign Manager, Major Gifts Officer and Administrative Assistant were hired to staff the campaign. By the end of 2007, the Foundation’s annual revenues had grown to more than $4 million, with net assets of more than $17 million – more than 10 times the amount during Mr. Dean’s first year.

In February 2008, the Library’s Board of Trustees invited Purdue University President Emeritus, Dr. Martin Jischke, and his wife, Mrs. Patty Jischke, to lead a group of community leaders to draft a strategic plan that would guide the Library through the next five years. After the approval of the Library’s plan in late 2008, the Foundation’s Board of Directors embarked upon a strategic planning process of its own. Using the Library’s plan as a starting point, the Board of Directors crafted a plan to guide the Foundation to greater levels of advocacy, resources and stewardship for the Library. Beginning in 2009, the Library Foundation began to implement the recommendations of its strategic plan.

2009 also brought the inaugural year of the Eugene & Marilyn Glick Indiana Authors Award. Made possible by a generous gift from The Glick Fund, a fund of the Central Indiana Community Foundation, the program seeks to recognize and reward the contributions of Indiana authors to the literary landscape of the state and beyond. The Indiana Authors Award also gives the Library Foundation an annual signature event and fundraiser in the form of its Award Dinner.

In 2011, as part of a rebranding campaign with the Library, the Foundation began doing business as The Indianapolis Public Library Foundation.

The Imagine Campaign raised approximately $44.5 million to support the renovation and expansion of Central Library. Following this highly successful capital campaign, the Library Foundation determined that the good will felt in the community toward the Library might be translated into financial support for a new campaign in support of programming. In the summer of 2003, Phase II of the Imagine Campaign (also known as the Learning for a Lifetime Campaign) was initiated with the goal of creating endowments that would support programming throughout the Library system. The Imagine II Campaign raised more than $4 million to support programming in three key areas: Early Childhood Literacy, Cultural and Community Programming and Lifelong Learning Initiatives. Central Library reopened its doors in December 2007 after a long renovation process, and at the end of 2008, Phase II of the Imagine Campaign officially came to an end.

Since its inception, the Library Foundation has funded countless programs throughout The Indianapolis Public Library system ranging from children’s story hours to arts and cultural programs to early literacy initiatives and more. Major initiatives funded by the Library Foundation include: the Marian McFadden Memorial Lecture Series, which brings a nationally known author to Indianapolis each year to present a free public lecture; the Summer Reading Program, which annually draws more than 55,000 participants and encourages children to read throughout the summer; the Job Center, which assists job-seekers in researching employment opportunities, preparing application materials and filing for unemployment benefits; the eBook Tinker Station which teaches patrons how to use eReaders and the Library’s growing digital collection; and many more.

In 2014, the Library Foundation completed a new Strategic Plan to build on and carry forward the work of the first plan. The new plan lays out new strategies for the Foundation to continue to build a broad-base of community support for program of the Library to sustain learning across the community.

In January 2016, following the decades-long tenure of Mr. Dean, the Foundation Board of Directors named Roberta K. Jaggers as President of The Indianapolis Public Library Foundation. She leads an eight-person staff that includes herself, a Director of Development, two Development Officers, a Stewardship Assistant, an Office Manager, and Office Assistant/Bookkeeper and an Administrative Assistant.