In 2017, Library Advisory Board member John Hudson asked library director Eric Lashley to identify the most prestigious award a library in the United States could receive. Lashley replied that the National Medal for Museum and Library Service was that award, and the board proceeded to challenge Lashley to win it.
The National Medal is bestowed each year by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, an agency that “advances, supports, and empowers America’s museums, libraries, and related organizations through grantmaking, research, and policy development.” The Georgetown Public Library had competed for IMLS grants in the past, and during a 2017 site visit to Georgetown, an IMLS staff member observing all that the library was doing for the community suggested that the library should consider applying for the National Medal.
With those two events occurring in such close proximity, it seemed that the signs were pointing us in the direction of an application.
The four-page application form and five-page nomination narrative were drafted by library staff and bolstered by letters of support from local nonprofit organizations with which the library partners. The nomination narrative described four elements: the community and the particular community needs served by our library; the programming our library has developed for those particular community needs; the impact our programs and services have had on the identified community needs; and our financial situation.
Our unique community is the reference point for everything we do. The library strives to serve as a catalyst for community wellbeing and enrichment in a context of extremely rapid local change and growth, and with an exceptionally large senior population. In myriad specific ways, our library staff reimagine and reinvent the library through patron-centric library services, innovative partnerships with organizations and agencies, and creative, engaging programming. The GPL is a library that exceeds expectations for a city of its size.
The GPL creates change in the community. Our Vision Statement indicates that we “will be a catalyst for an enriched community.” Some of the ways we meet that goal include Community Resource coordination, Arts and Culture support (including helping to establish and manage the Georgetown Art Center), a Family Place Libraries™ grant, WOWmobile service (Words On Wheels, our bookmobile), and recently established partnerships to develop legal aid services, fixed-route bus service, and more.
Just over 50 years ago a volunteer group of engaged citizens came together to form the Georgetown Public Library. The library opened to the public in 1966 on a corner of the Downtown Square with a few shelves of donated books in a rented storefront. That library was intended to serve school children’s academic needs as well as the interests of the broader Georgetown community of 5,400 individuals.
Having grown from a traditional community library, GPL continues to focus on excellent traditional services. We check out approximately 1,500 items per day, and check that many back in as well. The current library building opened in 2007, and the library serves as an anchor in the state-designated Georgetown Cultural District. The library’s staff of 23 FTE serves our primary population of 67,137 City of Georgetown residents as well as many patrons who live in the surrounding region. The 45,500 square-foot library building incorporates green building design, significant dedicated art exhibit space, a rain-forest themed children’s room, a teen space, large flexible public meeting spaces, native plant landscaping, a café, and much more. Upstairs, our Friends of the Library capably manage what is currently the only bookstore in town. The library is truly a community center: about 1,000 meetings per year take place in the building.
GPL serves as a community learning center. Social connection, purpose and meaning, information, learning, physical and emotional safety, community discourse, work, and play come together here. We strive each day to hear and to trust each of our patrons and our community partners, and to employ professional skills and personal empathy with persons of all backgrounds and beliefs, creating a culture of engagement, enlightenment, and empowerment.Executive Summary of GPL's National Medal Nomination Narrative
The entire application was submitted in September 2017…and then we waited.
On March 5, 2018, this year’s National Medal finalists from across the country were announced by the IMLS, and the Georgetown Public Library was on the list! The library staff were thrilled–just to be a finalist among the 29 museums and libraries was a great honor. The news was celebrated in the library’s BiblioFiles column in the Williamson County Sun on March 7 and in multiple news stories, as well.
Georgetown Public Library a finalist for National Medal, highest honor given to libraries, museums https://t.co/Npuzv4Ye6J
— Community Impact GEO (@impactnews_geo) March 6, 2018
We announced our news everywhere we could think of: in meetings, on our website and social media, at each of our service desks…our supportive library patrons did not seem to get tired of hearing it, so we kept talking about it!
We also asked our patrons to share what made our library special for them. We asked for social media posts and notes giving the reasons that they love the library. Below is a small sample of the overwhelming support and praise our users shared with us. Click the photos to view some of the library stories…
Tell @US_IMLS why the library should be nationally recognized! #shareyourstory about the library-when we got that one book you liked, how you came to programming that you loved, or when you got help with your taxes…it’s all fair game! pic.twitter.com/KUl4OwnK6l
— Georgetown Library (@GTPublicLibrary) March 13, 2018
There is something for every age group at the Georgetown Public Library. The positive, caring atmosphere permeates…
…and inside the library
We also invited some people to share their stories through video interviews. We asked them to talk about why the library is such an integral part of our community. You can view the full playlist here. Below are three videos featuring the library’s Outreach Assistant Kalena Powell, library volunteer Cobby Caputo, and library advocate Jane Estes.
Continue our National Medal story by reading about our win here.