Saint Paul is one of three communities in the United States to receive the 2015 LibraryAware Community Award given by Library Journal. The award recognizes model communities that engage with their libraries to improve the lives of their citizens and create lifelong learners.
The LibraryAware Community Award is underwritten by LibraryAware™ – a product of EBSCO Information Services. Representatives from Library Journal and EBSCO presented the award to the City of Saint Paul on May 6, 2015 during a meeting of the Library Board.
Mayor Chris Coleman, Library Board Chair Chris Tolbert, and Library Director Kit Hadley accepted the award and made brief comments to the Council and gallery. “The partnership that we have with The Friends of the Library, and the love the community has for the library, have increased demand for library services,” the Mayor said in accepting the award. He added, “This recognition of the work that we do is really recognition of a community that values libraries, and in spite of the fact that we have had budget challenges year after year, we have been able to prioritize the needs of the community and respond to those demands.”
Saint Paul Public Library (SPPL), with The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library, was recognized for its work in raising the profile of the Library and the outreach and programming it does to support community priorities, including education equity, digital literacy and workforce development.
SPPL serves a large community of new Americans, including a growing number of Hmong, Somali, and Karen immigrants, and inclusivity is a major part of its mission. The library is continuously expanding its goal of being “connected, mobile, multilingual, and responsive to community learning opportunities.” Along with some 6,500 programs a year, storytime and computer training are offered in English, Spanish, Chinese, Karen, Somali, Hmong, Amharic and Oromo.
SPPL’s Mobile Workplace, a traveling computer lab, brings digital literacy instruction and early literacy classes in several languages to communities that may not otherwise be able to access a bricks-and-mortar library. It also offers programs at correctional facilities, shelters, and assisted living residences.
SPPL is currently piloting a project to circulate Wi-Fi hot spots with free 4G Internet service. Twenty-two percent of Saint Paul households have no Internet service at home. By borrowing the Internet, residents can enjoy three weeks of access to e-books and other digital library resources and take the time to complete online job applications and other web-based processes. In addition to the new hotspot circulation program, the library has also launched a Borrow the Internet program with the Saint Paul Public Schools. To support students using iPads, the library is lending hotspots to 100 Saint Paul Public Schools students for use this school year.
The outreach is giving back. A recent public awareness campaign, supported by The Friends, enlisted the social media hashtag #BecauseOfTheLibrary, asking residents for stories of how the library has touched their lives. The results, shared on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, reflected the campaign themes of the library’s transformational impact on Saint Paul residents and the entire community. The goals of the campaign – increased new library card registrations and program attendance, membership in The Friends and capital campaign donations – were met and exceeded.
The city has also demonstrated its commitment: the 2015 Saint Paul budget added $300,000 for library materials and $400,000 to increase hours, helping the library grow along with its ever-expanding community. As Rebecca Ryan, manager of the Sun Ray Library, said in a recent video for SPPL, “We’re not in the book business. We are in the Saint Paul business.” SPPL, the 2015 LibraryAware Community Award second place winner, received $7,500 and a handsome bronze plaque touting the award.
The LibraryAware Community Award is given annually to a community of any size and its library. The award emphasizes the library’s engagement with the community, its ability to make its community aware of what the library can do for it, and how it has delivered on that promise. The Dothan Houston County Library System in Alabama was the first place recipient, and third place went to Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library, Kansas. All three of the LibraryAware Community Award winners were featured in an article in the April 2015 Library Journal.