IPSWICH, Mass. — March 31, 2015 — Three libraries are recipients of the 2015 LibraryAware Community Award given by Library Journal and underwritten by LibraryAware, a product of the NoveList division of EBSCO Information Services. The Dothan Houston County Library System in Alabama was the first place recipient, Saint Paul Public Library in Minnesota was awarded second place, while third place went to Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library, Kansas.
The award recognizes model communities that engage with their libraries to improve the lives of their citizens and create life-long learners. Dothan Houston County Library System exemplifies this goal as it has undergone rapid and overwhelming change in the last five years, after members of its community came forward with an idea to revitalize their county, starting with the library. Funded by donations and driven by community input, the Dothan Houston County Library System has been reinvented into a resource that the whole community supports and uses. With two new locations in growing parts of the community and a renewed emphasis on programming and providing new technologies, their door counts are up threefold, from 800 per day in 2010 to 2,500 in 2014.
"Dothan Houston County Library System illustrates what can be achieved when a community recognizes the value of a strong library system, and a library responds to the priorities of its community. Revitalizing the library system lays the foundation of a vibrant future focused on those community priorities—providing a high quality of life for residents, promoting education, and attracting young families and new businesses," says Rebecca T. Miller, Editorial Director of Library Journal and School Library Journal. "The people of Dothan have given themselves a gift that will enrich them for years to come."
Dothan Houston County Library System Director Bettye Forbus is delighted to share this award with the community that showed so much enthusiasm for supporting their library system. "Our demonstration of an unparalleled partnership between public and private sectors proves that even relatively small towns can be models of excellent delivery of library services integrated into the very fabric of a community," Forbus says.
Saint Paul Public Library, in conjunction with The Friends of the Saint Paul Library, was recognized for its work in raising the profile of SPPL and the programming it does to support priorities identified by the community, including racial equality, digital literacy, and workforce development. Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library demonstrated long-term thinking in engaging with its community and facilitating growth through staff members serving on community advisory boards, training as facilitators, and working to provide region-wide broadband access, among other initiatives.
LibraryAware Product Lead Nancy Dowd says that the efforts shown by these libraries and their communities have led to positive and powerful changes. "These winners make it clear how important the relationship between a library and its community truly is. Congratulations are due to all those who worked towards strengthening that relationship and in doing so improving the community itself."
The LibraryAware Community Award is given annually to a community of any size and its library.
Criteria for award include any and all components that create a LibraryAware community: strategic planning, marketing, outreach, partnerships, and programs, product, or service development. The award emphasizes the library's engagement with the community its ability to make its community "aware" of what the library can do for it—and has delivered on that promise. Libraries were also required to include one letter of recommendation from a representative from local government such as a city manager.
Submissions were judged by the following library and community experts:
- Cynthia Berner, director, Wichita Public Library (previous LibraryAware Community Award winner)
- John Chrastka from EveryLibrary
- Sandra Fried from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
- Amy Garmer from the Aspen Institute
- Kira Hasbargen of the ICMA
- Lilly Weinberg of the Knight Foundation
The 2015 winners are also featured in an article in Library Journal: The LibraryAware Community Award will be given annually to a community of any size and its library.