By Susan Hildreth
One of our hallmark programs of which I’m most proud is the National Medal for Museum and Library Service. The National Medal is the nation’s highest honor conferred on museums and libraries for service to the community. Year after year, we receive hundreds of applications highlighting the difference the institutions make in the lives of individuals and families and the positive impact they have on communities where we work and live.
This year marked the first time IMLS announced finalists for the National Medal. Thirty-three diverse institutions including an urban art museum, small town local library, children’s museum, regional library systems, community gardens, and more, from California to Connecticut, Washington to Mississippi were honored. We invited community members to share their experiences first hand with our Share Your Story initiative on our newly launched Facebook page. And share you did! Over the past seven weeks, hundreds of you have shared experiences, reflections, memories, and more. Here are some excerpts that I found especially moving:
As a baby, I had a heart murmur and flexible, flat feet, which made it hard for me to play sports or win competitions. But the library hosts Battle of the Books, a competition my team won and had fun at!
When we arrived in this country a few years ago, our library was like a home to us. It’s a place where we were welcome and felt like belonging, a place where we search not only for jobs but to learn English and about the American culture.
The museum invited adults to play for a few hours one night last summer. To prepare us for the event, the museum filmed a video where kids were asked to give adults advice on how to enjoy the museum. Word was that, “they should have the best day of their life…act like a kid!” And we did. In addition to incredible fun, it was a fantastic opportunity to bring awareness to the wonderful experience that this museum gifts to kids every day.
I have been deeply touched by the museum’s tours for Alzheimer’s/dementia patients and their caregivers. The tour is a special experience equally engaging both the patient and the caregiver. A time to leave the disease at the door and have a relaxed, docent-facilitated experience with works of art. What a gift.
My red library card is as valuable a source of credit for me as the Visa and Amex cards that facilitate everyday life.
Thank you for sharing your experiences with us. And tell us more! We love hearing about innovative programs and ways libraries and museums are educating, inspiring, fostering, and leading lifelong learning while serving as community anchors. At IMLS, we’re dedicated to brightly shining the spotlight on museums and libraries, community institutions that are making the difference in the lives of so many. Later this month, we’ll announce the 2013 National Medal for Museum and Library Service winners, so stay tuned!