Waukegan Public Library wins Upstart Innovation Award from the Public Library Association

On Friday, the Waukegan Public Library was awarded the Upstart Innovation Award by the Public Library Association. Formerly the Highsmith Innovation Award, this award recognizes a public library’s innovative and creative service program to the community.

This national award, sponsored by Upstart, a Demco Company, recognizes the library’s “Bus to Us” field-trip program, which brings thousands of elementary school children to the library throughout the year for engaging, curriculum-guided visits. In past years, the Illinois Library Association’s Highsmith Innovation Awardwent to the library’s Early Learning Center, a children’s hands-on learning museum created to address pre-literacy needs among Waukegan children from birth to seven years old, and its annual Ray Bradbury Storytelling Festival.

Bus to Us is fully funded by the Harold M. and Adeline S. Morrison Foundation, including the cost of the transportation and curriculum development. The Bus to Us program was created in 2011 when the library realized that the school district field trip budget had been cut and many schoolchildren had no way to travel to the library. After a search for sponsors to cover the costs of busing, the Morrison Family Foundation donated enough funds to fully subsidize the costs of weekly bus trips for thousands of students from schools throughout Waukegan. Since the program was implemented, over 2,000 students have participated in the program.

This year, Bus to Us curriculum is tied to the Early Learning Center theme, “Oink, Baa, Moo: Farm Fun”, which allows students to experience life on a farm with interactive displays on gardening, dairy products, and animal sounds. In addition, students can milk a life size fiberglass milking cow and watch real live chicks hatch in an incubator. Children’s librarians present educational programs on soil, erosion, seasons, crops, and animal life.

The library is currently scheduling 26 field trips to the library this Spring and Fall and is on track to bring 1,300 students to the library. Interested teachers and principals from Waukegan schools, public and private, should call David Villalobos at (847) 623-2041 ext. 234 to schedule a date for their class. Field trips run every Friday throughout the school year and are filling up quickly.