In mid-February we learned that our Library is a finalist for The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) National Medal for Museum and Library Service. The National Medal is the nation’s highest honor conferred on museums and libraries for service to the community and celebrates institutions that make a difference for individuals, families, and communities.
Medal finalists are selected from nationwide nominations of institutions that demonstrate innovative approaches to public service, exceeding the expected levels of community outreach. Finalists are chosen because of their significant and exceptional contributions to their communities.
While it always wonderful to receive recognition for the work we do, especially on a national level, our true motivation comes from knowing that we are making a difference in our community.
The specific services mentioned in our nomination deal with three community issues: childhood poverty, grade level reading, and adult education. When we learn of an issue like the high rate of childhood poverty in Cincinnati, the 3rd highest in the country, we don’t just accept it. We set about changing it.
It may not be immediately obvious how our Library can have an impact on something like childhood poverty. But I believe we can have an impact. To do so we looked at services that would address the two sides of this coin: meeting the immediate needs of children living in poverty and providing educational opportunities that would lift children out of poverty.
So, in 2012 we worked with Cincinnati Public Schools and the Freestore/Foodbank to offer summer lunches at 14 Library locations. Together we served 6,700 lunches to children at these locations. This is a program we plan to continue because it is hard for a hungry child to pay attention and learn. A food program can make all the difference in a child's success.
We know that a good education is crucial to getting out of poverty. Data tell us that students who are prepared for kindergarten and reading at grade level by grade three are more likely to succeed academically and in life. We have developed a whole range of programs to get children off to a good start in kindergarten and keeping them reading at grade level.
From Summer Reading programs to Brain Camps to extra teacher collections for schools with more students reading below grade level to visits to in home childcare providers, we are putting our resources to work for the good of our community.
The IMLS Award winners will be announced later this spring. Whether or not we are selected for the award, we will keep developing and offering services that meet these important community needs.
IMLS is encouraging community members who have visited the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County to share their story on the IMLS Facebook page. Visit the IMLS Facebook page to learn more about how these institutions make an impact.
--Kimber L. Fender, The Eva Jane Romaine Coombe Director