On Wednesday May 8, First Lady Michelle Obama joined the Institute of Museum and Library Services Director Susan Hildreth to present the 2013 National Medal for Museum and Library Service to Pierce County Library System, and nine additional institutions in a ceremony at the White House. The National Medal is the nation’s highest honor bestowed on museums and libraries for service to the community, and celebrates institutions that make a difference for individuals, families, and communities. The Pierce County Library System was chosen as a recipient for its innovative programs and partnerships that serve and support an incredibly diverse community. Jo Cruz was chosen to travel to Washington, DC, along with Neel Parikh, Pierce County Library’s Executive Director, to share the impact the library has had on the community during the May 8 celebration. Jo is a local resident who uses library programs and resources to promote early literacy as a child care provider.
Neel explained details of the award, “It’s our first time receiving this award. It’s for libraries that exceed the normal standards for outreach, and innovative and creative ways to serve its community. It’s about our impact in the community.” The other libraries selected for the award were: Marshalltown Public Library, Marshalltown, Iowa; National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library, Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, Cincinnati, Ohio; Rancho Cucamonga Public Library, Rancho Cucamonga, Calif; and Waukegan Public Library, Waukegan, Ill. The winners were each awarded a grant of $5,000 to use toward innovative outreach services.
The programs that excelled for Pierce County Library include a wide range of services offered. Neel sums up the achievements of each program:
“Our early learning program was nationally known for work in early learning, which was pioneered in the state of Washington. Our Job and business center that we’ve created, including a special website for job seekers and our partnership with Work Force Central. They gave us a grant to provide training in the county and talk about how we’ve extended their service. Our work with Joint Base Lewis McChord includes diverse communities of Spanish and Korean communities. We have partnerships with many organizations; including English as a Second Language (ESL). We have also been able to help our active older adults, including our baby boomers by having different kinds of activities for them.
We were featured for special work, before opening the Fife library because that community had never had a library. There were a lot of people in apartments, including Spanish speaking people that didn’t know what the library was about. A year and a half before the library opened, we took a book mobile to apartments and introduced what services we could give. We told the people in the Fife community to come when the new building came. The opening day was videotaped by high school students. More than half kids came to the library from the book mobile.”
Jo Cruz, a local resident who uses library programs and resources to promote early literacy as a child care provider. She was selected by a panel from the Institute of Museum and Library Service. She created a support group for other family daycare providers to discuss ways to inspire creativity regarding child care activities and child development, and how to introduce pre-reading skills. “We help childcare providers introduce childhood literacy. We train childcare providers and parents in connection with community partners.”
Neel is very proud of the library system receiving this award. She credits the community partners and supporters for making it happen. The Board Chair of Pierce County Library System, Linda Ishem was also present to accept the award. The Pierce County Library System is the first in State of Washington to be recognized by this achievement.
Receiving this award will have a long-term impact on the library system. Neel suggested that this award would motivate further outreach projects in the community. One of the institutions that nominated the Pierce County Library System for this award was The Franklin Pierce School District. The partnership with the school district linked the two libraries, so that resources can be more easily exchanged and shared to create a supportive library environment.
“I just feel incredibly grateful to our entire community and support and this is a great community to work in. I’ve been here 18 years. In the last 5 years, we’ve cut our budget and goes to show you that you can still be creative even with tough economic times. We pay attention to the community and make sure we are making a difference,” Neel concluded.
For more information about the award, or to learn more about the 2013 National Medal for Museum and Library Service winners, please visit the Institute of Museum and Library Services website.
By: Carly Calabrese, staff for Tacoma.com
Edited by Reba Winstead, editor for Tacoma.com