September 22, 2010; Source: Maple Leaf Life | What a nice problem to have. On Wednesday, the Seattle Public Library Foundation launched a campaign to raise $500,000 it needs to match a promised grant from an anonymous donor. Response to the appeal was far greater than the foundation had been expecting, and within hours its website shut down.

“The overwhelming amount of traffic to the gift processing part of our website caused it to crash. We are so sorry for this inconvenience,” said Jonna Ward, executive director of The Seattle Public Library Foundation. The library, which is facing cuts this year and next, that could trim up to nearly $10 million from its budget, received a phone call last Spring from an unidentified person pledging $500,000 if the library foundation could match the gift. In a separate article in the Seattle Times, Ward said she has “no idea who this person is,” adding that the challenge “came from out of the blue, a once-in-a-lifetime gift that hardly ever happens.”

Unlike this mystery person, other big donors who have given in the past to support the public library haven’t minded the attention. The largest previous donation of $23 million came from the family of Paul Allen, who co-founded Microsoft with Bill Gates, whose foundation separately gave $20 million several years ago.—Bruce Trachtenberg