Waukegan Public Library to Receive 2013 National Medal for Museum and Library Service

The Institute of Museum and Library Services today announced Waukegan Public Library of Waukegan, Ill., as one of 10 recipients of this year’s National Medal for Museum and Library Service. The nation’s highest honor conferred on museums and libraries for service to the community, the National Medal celebrates institutions that make a difference for individuals, families, and communities. The National Medal will be presented at a celebration in Washington, D.C. on May 8.

Waukegan Public Library recognized a critical need for fresh, effective approaches to promoting literacy across the community. Waukegan has a Hispanic population that is three times higher than the state average, with 55 percent of residents speaking a language other than English. The Library has evolved as a core component of Waukegan’s broader community learning and service infrastructure with a wide array of programs to put individuals on the Path to Learning and Literacy and helping residents build essential communication skills. A key initiative is the Promotoras Ambassador Program – empowering an outreach worker to be responsible for raising awareness about library resources in the Hispanic community and understanding the needs of Spanish speakers. One of the library’s first initiatives was to create a culturally sensitive Conversational ESL Program that incorporates relevant curriculum that places the learner at the center to ensure his or her success in daily life. After only one year, 255 students have participated in the Conversational ESL program, with most moving on to a GED program.

“Museums and libraries serve as centers for lifelong learning and as cornerstones for our communities. Waukegan Public Library is modifying and adapting programs to ensure educational opportunities and literacy for all residents and community members, and we are proud to name Waukegan Public Library as one of this year’s National Medal for Museum and Library Service winners,” said Susan Hildreth, director, Institute of Museum and Library Services. “This year’s National Medal recipients demonstrate the many ways museums and libraries alike build strong communities. These institutions are educating, inspiring, and leading lifelong learning while serving as community anchors.”

“To me, a library is effective when it provides every citizen with the tools they need to be successful,” said Richard Lee, executive director of the Waukegan Public Library. “At the Waukegan Public Library, we no longer measure our success by the number of books we check out, but by the relevant services and resources we offer to the community that put them on a path to success. We are honored that our hard work has been recognized by a national organization that promotes libraries and museums as strong community anchors.”

Diana Alvey, who volunteers as a Promotora Ambassador and an ESL tutor at the library, will travel to Washington and share the impact the Waukegan Public Library has on the community during the May 8 celebration.

This year’s honorees exemplify the nation’s great diversity of libraries and museums and include a science center, children’s museum, music museum, art museum, cultural museum, public libraries, and county library systems, hailing from seven states. Earlier this year, 33 institutions were announced as finalists for the National Medal, and community members were encouraged to share their stories about their experiences on the IMLS Facebook page.

Medal winners were selected from nationwide nominations of institutions that demonstrate innovative approaches to public service, exceeding the expected levels of community outreach. After the ceremony, StoryCorps – a national nonprofit dedicated to recording, preserving, and sharing the stories of Americans – will visit Waukegan Public Library to document stories from the community.

For a complete list of 2013 recipients and to learn more about the National Medal winners, please 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 Facebook and Twitter.