COUNCIL BLUFFS — Ann Cook loved the library.
She spent hours upon hours during her 70 years there, reading about faraway lands, visions of the future and dramas about life and love.
As a gift to the institution that gave her so much joy, the former school teacher left $2.5 million to the Council Bluffs Public Library.
“I'm not surprised,” said Mildred Smock, head librarian from 1957 until her retirement in 1992.
“She was a great reader,” said Smock, who first met Cook when the library patron was a young girl. “She was in the library checking out books about once a week, very frequently. This was a long time ago, but in my recollection she read mostly fiction for pleasure.”
Cook supported the library financially throughout her life, thanks in part to money inherited from her parents, who also passed on their love of books and learning to their daughter. As an adult, Cook would stop by after school let out. She taught from 1964 to 1997 at Norris and the now-closed Bancroft Junior Highs in the Omaha Public Schools system. After retirement she spent even more time at the library, volunteering with the Friends of the Library organization.
Cook died Dec. 16, 2012, and left her entire estate to the Council Bluffs Public Library Foundation, a nonprofit organization that raises money to enhance activities at the institution. With the help of donors, including Cook, the foundation raised the money to construct the new library building at 400 Willow Ave. in 1998.
“The donation Ann gave is a tremendous help in the foundation's mission of enhancing library programs,” said foundation President Steve Krohn, who noted that the money helps the organization's efforts to supplement book collections, fund various programs and buy new technology. “With this we have much more ability to provide for the people of Council Bluffs.”
Gary Faust, Cook's attorney and a member of the foundation board, said a portion of Cook's funds have been distributed already, with the rest slated to be available for use in early 2014.
“Ann had a great deal of love for the library,” Faust said. “She wanted to see it continue to prosper.”
He said Cook maintained the wealth she inherited through an unassuming lifestyle, spending her money wisely while living in a modest home on the west end of the city.
“She lived frugally. She didn't have a McMansion,” her attorney said. “She took care of her money.”
Soon that money will go toward laptops and tablets and movie nights and other services that the foundation helps the library offer.
“It's amazing that a person would have that kind of love for their community and the library to make a gift like this to benefit us all,” Krohn said. “We're very thankful.”