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Public library finalist for national medal: Community encouraged to share library stories

Daily News Staff Writer

Ketchikan Public Library has been named as one of 29 finalists for the 2018 National Medal for Museum and Library service, awarded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services — the government agency that is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s libraries.

“The 29 National Medal finalists showcase the tremendous ability of libraries and museums to serve as vital community resources,” said IMLS Director Dr. Kathryn K. Matthew in a press release. “The Institute of Museum and Library Services is honored to recognize these leading institutions. We congratulate them on the work they are doing across the United States.”

The recognition comes after Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski last fall nominated the library to receive the medal after seeing its new community garden in August during a bill signing hosted at the library.

Although Murkowski took notice of the garden, KPL Director Pat Tully credits a multitude of things for being named a finalist. Once KPL was nominated, the library had to send in materials and garner letters of support from the community. Ketchikan School District Superintendent Robert Boyle submitted a letter, as did Mayor Lew Williams III and local artist Evon Zerbetz.

In the application, KPL also had to describe in detail what programs and services the library offers that distinguishes it from others — such as the adult, teen and children’s summer reading programs that had a total of 677 participants last year.

Other programs include the Children’s Readaway Fines program, in which children can sign up to reduce their overdue fines by $1 for every 15 minutes they read in the library; the Eclipse Across America event held at the library; and the community survey and strategic planning process.

“I think it could have been like any one those things,” Tully said. “I think the community garden was certainly something Sen. Murkowski was really impressed with, and we did go into some detail on the application about the garden. … My suspicion is that being selected as a finalist was as much about everything that we provide — all of the programs, all of the services — as well as the garden program.”

On Wednesday, Ketchikan Public Library will be featured on the Institute of Museums and Library Services website. The institution is encouraging community members who have visited the library to share their story on Facebook and Twitter with the hashtag #IMLSmedals.

Anyone interested in sharing their story can visit www.facebook.com/USIMLS or www.twitter.com/us_imls.

“They did make it clear that those stories, although they’re really great and wonderful to hear, and great to kind of get out there and be public, that won’t be a factor in determining who gets the medal,” Tully explained.

“We anecdotally hear all the time from people who really love the library, and it would be great to kind of get that, at least some part of those stories, kind of out on Twitter and Facebook,” Tully added, “just to kind of hear what people have to say and hopefully start a conversation about what the library does, or maybe what it could be doing that maybe we’re not doing right now.”

 National Medal winners will be announced later this spring. Representatives from winning institutions will be honored for their “extraordinary contributions” at the National Medal Ceremony on May 24 in Washington D.C., according to the press release.

The medal is the nation’s highest honor given to museums and libraries for service to the community, and is awarded to an “outstanding” library or museum that “contributes significantly to thee well-being of their communities,” according to the Institute of Museum and Library Service.

Even if the Ketchikan Public Library doesn’t win a medal, Tully wanted to make sure that community members know how special the First City is.

“For me, this recognition is as much a recognition of the amazing community that we have here,” Tully said. “The library is kind of in that mix, but it really is kind of Ketchikan. … I think it’s not just a recognition for the library, but it really is a recognition of this really amazing, special place we all live in.”