Librarian Cecilia Barham almost had to stop on the side of the road when she got news of her library’s national recognition.
Decatur Public Library was named runner-up Best Small Library in America, an award given annually by Library Journal and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Barham said a Journal representative called her while she was driving home, and after emitting a squeal of delight, she thought she was going to have to pull over to fully digest the information.
“I got a little choked up,” she said. “I apologized to (the magazine rep) and explained that I was just so excited.
“She assured me this was her favorite part of the job,” getting to share the good news.
The annual award was created in 2005 to encourage and showcase the exemplary work of libraries serving populations under 25,000. It’s sponsored by the Gates Foundation.
The Decatur facility was awarded $5,000 cash and conference costs for two representatives to attend the 2012 Public Library Association meeting in Philadelphia March 13-17.
Barham said they will be presented with a physical award at the conference and will also attend a reception hosted by the foundation.
The winner of Best Small Library in America was the Independence Public Library in Kansas.
Libraries apply for the award, but Barham said the application criteria are so strict that there aren’t many that qualify.
Applicants have to demonstrate creativity in developing services and programs that can be replicated by other libraries including:
- outreach to special populations;
- innovation in introducing and supporting public access to computers and the Internet;
- success in educating patrons in computer use and measuring results of technology usage;
- use of technology to expand the reach of library services;
- demonstrated community support;
- sustained cooperation with other libraries;
- partnerships with other agencies and businesses;
- increase in library use, particularly new users; and
- evidence of the library’s role as community center.
“Not many libraries have the staff or funding to meet the standards,” she said. “I just felt like I should apply because everyone here works so hard.”
Barham said it was a tribute to staff and volunteers.
“The dedication of the staff and volunteers to the library and community that we serve were the foundation for anything else that we were able to do as a library,” she said.
The library was featured in the February issue of Library Journal, and Barham said she has already fielded two calls from librarians who wanted to implement some of the programs mentioned in the article.
There will be a public celebration of the award at 6 p.m. Tuesday, April 10, at the library. Barham said there will be food and live music, and staff and volunteers will be recognized.