The Waterville Public Library is among 30 finalists across the country for the 2017 National Medal for Museum and Library Service.
In a news release Monday, the Institute of Museum and Library Services said the medal “is the nation’s highest honor given to museums and libraries for service to the community” and that “for 23 years, the award has celebrated institutions that demonstrate extraordinary and innovative approaches to public service and are making a difference for individuals, families, and communities.”
“Being selected as a finalist for the national medal is a call for tremendous celebration,” Sarah Sugden, the library’s director, said in a statement Monday. “It is also a call for action. Being nominated for this terrific honor inspires us to do more, to do better, to do the work that needs to be done in our community. Thank you. We are overflowing with gratitude for this honor and recognition of our efforts.”
Waterville’s library was built in 1905 with a $20,000 gift from Andrew Carnegie. Six years ago the library, off Elm Street, finished a multimillion-dollar renovation and expansion that included a new front entrance off Appleton Street.
Now, the city library provides public use to 14 computers and a teaching and learning space with 12 laptop computers. It also has a business and career center that offers services for job seekers, business owners and others.
Sugden noted that the library has come a long way.
“A little more than a decade ago, our public library was a dreary, depressing (and depressed) institution that had actual mushrooms growing from the ceiling (no kidding). The library’s cultural credibility and community support were in similar conditions, echoing, in truth, our community’s overall sense of despondency and despair that had resulted from major employers closing,” Sugden said. “Over the past decade, library staff and the Board of Trustees have brought solutions, not problems, to the matter of community development and revitalization. We have sought to re-establish our public library as an agency of opportunity, an institute of love, an essential community resource. This work is ongoing, and it has been filled with barriers, obstacles, and remarkable opportunities. We are proud to say that this work has also made a difference in our community.”
The Institute of Museum and Library Services, which is the main source of federal support for the nation’s 123,000 libraries and 35,000 museums, said finalists for the national medal were chosen because of their “significant and exceptional contributions to their communities.”
“The 2017 National Medal Finalists represent the leading museums and libraries that serve as catalysts for change in their communities,” Kathryn K. Matthew, director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services, said in the release.
National Medal winners will be announced later this spring, and representatives from winning institutions get to travel to Washington, D.C., to be honored at the National Medal award ceremony.
Cindy Jacobs, president of the library’s board of trustees, said in a statement that the library’s staff is key to the success.
“This is a group of individuals that only stops working when the job is done, not when their shifts are over,” Jacobs said. “We are incredibly fortunate to have such a dedicated team working for and in this community. Their strengths in childhood literacy, job and career counseling, and collaborating with the arts community to bring programs and events to Waterville have been more than well received. The board is honored to be working with such a dynamic and energetic group of selfless individuals.”
The finalist nomination also highlights how the Waterville Public Library serves “as a competitive advantage for Waterville and the region,” Tammy Rabideau, the library’s associate director, said in a statement.
“This is a defining moment for our community,” she said.