The Mancos Public Library has made the short list of nationwide institutions contending for the 2018 National Medal for Museum and Library Service.
Distributed by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the medal has been used for 24 years to recognize museums and libraries for “extraordinary and innovative approaches to public service,” according to an IMLS news release.
This year’s 29 finalists were announced Monday, and the IMLS is asking people served by each library and museum to share stories through social media about how it has impacted their lives. The winners will be honored in a medal ceremony in Washington, D.C., on May 24.
IMLS spokeswoman Giuliana Bullard said the medal is her agency’s highest honor for community service among local institutions.
“The winners will often be talking about winning this award for years and years to come,” she said.
Anyone can nominate an institution for the award, but winners and finalists are chosen by IMLS’ federally appointed board of directors. Bullard said the board looks for institutions that understand their communities’ needs and create programs to meet them.
In order to be considered, libraries and museums must also be financially stable and demonstrate that they have made a significant impact on their regions.
Sen. Cory Gardner nominated Mancos Public Library for the award this year, Bullard said. The library’s executive director, Lee Hallberg, said the nomination came partly as a result of his staff’s response to the Western Excelsior fire. In the weeks after the disaster, which left about 100 people without jobs, he said the library held longer hours and offered free legal advice and extra time on the computers to people filing for unemployment benefits or looking for jobs.
“A lot of what we do is listening to people and responding to their needs,” Hallberg said.
He called the nomination a “tremendous honor” in a news release.
Five libraries and five museums will be chosen to receive the medal, which comes with a $5,000 award. National Public Radio’s StoryCorps project will also visit each winning institution and conduct interviews with staff, guests and members of the community for a feature on the show.
During the six weeks leading up to the award ceremony, IMLS is asking people to post about the nominated libraries and museums on its Facebook and Twitter pages with the hashtag #ShareYourStory. Bullard said these stories will not affect the board’s decision about the winners, but are intended as another way for people to show appreciation for the finalists.
“It’s a way for communities to come together and celebrate the award,” she said.
Bullard said the Mancos Library will be featured on the IMLS social media pages later in March.
Mancos is one of two Colorado libraries listed among the finalists, along with the Pueblo City-County Library District. The Children’s Museum of Denver is also among the museum finalists. Mancos is one of the smallest towns with an institution on the list.
The town has had a functioning library since 1946, although the current building on West First Street is only about 9 years old.
The library offers weekly programs for children and teens, educational events for all ages and many practical resources for adults, like free legal self-help clinics.
The Institute of Museum and Library Services is a federal agency that supports libraries all over the U.S.