If you’ve been to the Georgetown Public Library this summer, you may have seen signs and banners that read “National Medal Winner.” Everyone in Georgetown should appreciate this amazing honor and the many reasons our library earned it.
Awarded each year since 1994 by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the National Medal for Museum and Library Service is the nation’s highest honor given to museums and libraries that make significant and exceptional contributions to their communities. The award to Georgetown was presented in Washington, D.C., on May 24.
With a total of 120,000 libraries across the country including 8,895 public libraries, the Georgetown Public Library is one of only five libraries in the U.S. to win the National Medal this year. The San Antonio Public Library is the only other public library in Texas to have won the IMLS National Medal in the past.
So what makes our library so special? And how did our library become only the second public library in the state to earn this distinction?
When you walk in the Georgetown Public Library, you encounter three words on the doors: Engage, Enlighten, Empower. This is the Library’s mission statement. That mission is evident in the many ways that the Library serves our citizens and drives the Library to serve as a catalyst for community wellbeing and enrichment.
Born from the community: The Georgetown Public Library was a creation of the people who lived here; it began in 1966 as a grassroots organization run by volunteers. Anna Aiken was the president of the library when it started in a one-room storefront owned by Don and Clara Scarbrough at 802 S. Main St. The Library expanded to a new location at the corner of Main and Seventh streets in 1970. The Library became a department of the City when it moved to a new building at 808 Martin Luther King St. in 1987. In 2007, the Library moved to its current location at 402 W. Eighth St. after citizens supported bonds for a new 50,000 square foot facility. Community volunteers continue to be a vital part of the Library with more than 1,071 members in Friends of the Georgetown Public Library and 200 active volunteers.
Learning and growing: Given the rise of online content, it may be surprising to know that 1,500 items are checked out of the library every day. This includes books, e-books, DVDs and other materials. In addition, a collection of magazines, newspapers, and online content is used every day. The Summer Reading program, as well as regular programs for children, teens, and adults, aim to engage young and old with ideas and literature. This year the library initiated the Family Place Library™ program, which makes the library a center for early literacy and learning, parent education and engagement, and community connectivity to help ensure children enter school ready to learn.
Community connections: The Library helps people to connect to ideas and learning with the bookmobile. Every week this mini-library on wheels brings books and materials to seniors, youth and citizens with transportation challenges across the city. In 2016 the Library hired a licensed social worker as the community resource coordinator who helps individuals access social services and fosters communication among local nonprofits and other agencies.
Transportation hub: The Library serves as the central transfer station and hub for GoGeo, the city’s bus system. Library staff sell bus passes and provide route information at the circulation desk. In addition, the Library has a fleet of bicycles available for checkout to be used in the city.
Arts and culture: In addition to his primary role, Library Director Eric Lashley leads the Arts and Culture program for the City, which includes placing public art on the Square and managing funding for other arts projects. The Library also holds free monthly public concerts in the lobby and hosts regular art exhibits and sculpture displays throughout the building and on the Library grounds. The Library also took the lead role in the successful creation of the Georgetown Art Center and securing downtown Georgetown’s designation as a Cultural District by the Texas Commission on the Arts.
Civic engagement: More than a place to get a book, the Library has become a vibrant center for civic involvement as the location of more than 1,000 meetings each year. A wide variety of discussion groups, panels, worship services, celebrations, receptions, lectures, craft groups, and political or issue-related groups hold meetings and events at the Library.
Winning the National Medal for Museum and Library Service this year was confirmation of something many of us have already known: the Georgetown Public Library is a special place that is among the very best libraries in the U.S.