The ink on Kenosha Public Library’s state Library of the Year award is barely dry, and now this local treasure has earned another prestigious honor for extraordinary efforts to serve patrons and the community.
Kenosha Public Library is among 30 finalists for the 2021 National Medal for Museum and Library Service, the Institute of Museum and Library Services announced Thursday. KPL is the only institution in Wisconsin to be selected as a finalist for this year’s award and the first library in the state to be recognized since Madison made the list in 2016.
“When we were awarded the 2020 Wisconsin Library Association Library of the Year award our focus was on the tremendous service our team tirelessly provided amid a global pandemic and civil unrest,” KPL Communications Specialist Brandi Cummings said. “With the IMLS award application, our focus was on showcasing the Kenosha we know to be true, which differs from what many across the nation may have seen on their television screens over the last year.
“We wanted to shine a light on the vibrant, determined, resilient Kenosha that we are so extremely proud of. As we continue to rebuild and strengthen Kenosha, the library is helping lead the way.”
The National Medal for Museum and Library Service is the nation’s highest honor for institutions that make significant and exceptional contributions to their communities. Since 1994, IMLS has presented the award to institutions that demonstrate extraordinary and innovative approaches to service.
“KPL staff sustained library services for the most vulnerable members of our community with remarkable courage and conviction through the compounded challenges of both a global pandemic and local civil unrest,” said KPL Director Barb Brattin. “Courage is a rare thing. We are grateful to IMLS for recognizing KPL’s commitment to equity for responding to a tragic period in our history.”
The extensive application process which led to Kenosha being selected as a finalist drew the support of Senator Tammy Baldwin.
In her letter of recommendation, Sen. Baldwin wrote: “For 120 years, the Kenosha Public Library has eagerly met the challenges and needs of the community. This commitment is illustrated by their current focus on equity and inclusion and their efforts to provide resources to their community during the coronavirus pandemic, while assisting in bridging divides in the community.”
The honor is given annually by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the primary source of federal support for the nation’s libraries and museums. The organization’s mission is to advance, support and empower America’s museums, libraries and related organizations through grant-making, research and policy development.
National Medal winners will be announced in late spring. Representatives from winning institutions will be honored during a virtual National Medal Ceremony this summer. A full list of finalists, past winners, and more information about the National Medal is available on the IMLS website.
“We believe that Kenosha Public Library deserves to win a National Medal for Museum and Library Services because we are strategically transforming our services and offerings to fuel Kenosha’s growth and healing,” Cummings said.
KPL has long been a fixture of the community, inspiring learning, nurturing curiosity, and strengthening the neighborhoods of Kenosha through services intentionally designed to meet the needs of the diverse community.
In a typical year, more than 600,000 visitors enjoy early literacy programs, engaging lectures, book clubs and activities that ignite their curiosity about the world around them, engage them in meaningful exploration and discovery.
“The Library’s mission is ‘to be an inclusive, welcoming community that strengthens neighborhoods, inspires shared learning, and nurtures curiosity.’ The Library is the only place where anyone, at any age, can come to freely explore, discover, and learn without barriers to entry,” Cummings said.
This past year saw a skyrocketing need for connection to the library’s wealth of information and entertainment. That connection could have been severed by COVID-19, but instead the opposite happened.
KPL earned its WLA Library of the Year title by providing innovative services in the midst of the pandemic. More than 44,000 visitors took part in programming through virtual platforms and safely designed outdoor experiences in 2020.
“Our expert staff prides themselves on guiding people to the perfect answer whether it is a young child looking to explore outer space or a student from one of our local colleges looking for research assistance,” Cummings said. “Our team is not only made up of coaches, navigators, and learning facilitators but also of artists, encouragers and connectors looking to help each community member gain access to the rich resources our Kenosha provides.”
Do you have a Kenosha Public Library story to share? KPL invites Kenoshans to express what their library means to them.
Stories and comments can be sent directly to firstname.lastname@example.org.
IMLS is also encouraging Kenosha Public Library community members to share those stories, memories, pictures, and videos on social media on Friday, April 9 as part of the Share Your Story campaign, using the #IMLSmedals hashtag.