Waukegan Public Library is named as the only Illinois finalist for the 2013 National Medal for Museum and Library Service

The Institute of Museum and Library Services today announced the Waukegan Public Library as a National Medal for Museum and Library Service finalist. The National Medal is the nation’s highest honor conferred on museums and libraries for service to the community and celebrates institutions that make a difference for individuals, families, and communities.

Medal finalists are selected from nationwide nominations of institutions that demonstrate innovative approaches to public service, exceeding the expected levels of community outreach. This year’s finalists exemplify the nation’s great diversity of libraries and museums and include an aquarium and marine science center foundation, conservatory and botanical gardens, county library systems, individual libraries, children’s museums, an art museum, science centers, and more, hailing from across the country.

“Museums and libraries serve as community gathering places and centers for lifelong learning, and we are very proud to announce Waukegan Public Library as a finalist for the 2013 National Medal,” said Susan Hildreth, director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services. “This year’s finalists exemplify the many wonderful ways museums and libraries can respond to the needs and wants of the communities they serve.”

In the award application, the Waukegan Public Library stated that while it still maintains its collection of books and digital resources, it also provides continuing education to patrons of all ages and economic strata. “The Waukegan Public Library is uniquely positioned to assist residents in reaching their personal goals,” said Richard Lee, executive director of the Waukegan Public Library. “It is a great honor to be recognized for our hard work.”

Some of the unique free services and programs at the library include the Early Learning Center, a hands-on children’s museum that tackles pre-literacy needs among Waukegan children from birth to age seven, and Spanish literacy programs such as Conversational English, Leamos, Spanish Pre-GED, and the HACES Citizenship Preparation program. In addition, the library offers adult basic skills classes including reading, writing, and math tutoring, computer classes, and a job search and resume help lab. To fund these program and service initiatives, the library relies heavily on sponsorships, donations, and grants since tax revenue dollars are used to support traditional library services, including the library’s 220,000 item collection of books, music, and movies.

“The Waukegan Public Library has made meeting the personal development needs of our citizenry a top priority.  Our staff members work tirelessly in the development, execution, and delivery of a wide variety of programming designed to uplift and enlighten one patron at a time,” said Charmaine Harris, Waukegan Public Library board president and Waukegan High School principal.

In addition to the National Medal, the library was recently awarded the Public Library Association’s Upstart Innovation Award. Sponsored by Upstart, a Demco Company, the award recognizes a library’s achievement in planning and implementing an innovative program or service that has a measurable impact on its users. This year, the library won for its “Bus to Us” field trip program, which brings thousands of elementary school children to the library for engaging, curriculum-guided visits. The program not only provides significant educational opportunity, but also improves awareness of the library and its services.

IMLS is encouraging community members who have visited the Waukegan Public Library to share their story on the IMLS Facebook page, www.facebook.com/USIMLS.  Visit the IMLS Facebook page to learn more about how these institutions make an impact.  National Medal for Museum and Library Service winners will be announced this spring.

To Share Your Story, please visit www.facebook.com/USIMLS. To learn more about the 2013 National Medal finalists, visit www.imls.gov/medals.

About the Institute of Museum and Library Services

The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 123,000 libraries and 17,500 museums.  Our mission is to inspire libraries and museums to advance innovation, lifelong learning, and cultural and civic engagement. Our grant making, policy development, and research help libraries and museums deliver valuable services that make it possible for communities and individuals to thrive.  To learn more, visit http://www.imls.gov and follow us on Facebookand Twitter.