WATERVILLE — The Waterville Public Library is one of 10 nationwide winners of the National Medal for Museum and Library Service for 2017, according to an announcement made Monday.

The Institute of Museum and Library Services, based in Washington, D.C., is the main source of federal support for the nation’s 123,000 libraries and 35,000 museums and recognizes libraries and museums around the country with the award for their service to the community. It is the highest national honor the organizations can receive.

The Waterville Public Library was announced as one of 30 finalists in March.

“For 23 years, the award has celebrated institutions that respond to societal needs in innovative ways, making a difference for individuals, families, and their communities,” the institute said in a news release.

“These institutions play a critical role as community catalysts and provide vital resources that drive economic development, foster community well-being, and spark neighborhood revitalization,” Kathryn K. Matthew, director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services, said in the release.

Waterville library Director Sarah Sugden said Monday that the award is poignant and emotional for her, as she grew up in the library, was 5 when she received her library card and also got her first job there.


After working in libraries out of state, she returned to her home town in 2005 with her family and took the library director’s job.

“Waterville’s a really special place, and I’m so honored and so humbled to be part of helping us be reminded of how great Waterville is,” Sugden, 43, said. “I hope that my home town knows that this has been a true effort of love on my part.”

The National Medal, she said, is the result of many years of effort by a lot of people, including an “extraordinary staff” at the library, which accomplishes the work the library needs to do without overburdening taxpayers.

“We do a lot with very little,” Sugden said, adding that the city pays less than $28 per capita for library services.

That amount is less than the national average and less than what other cities pay, including Augusta which pays more than $36 per capita, Sugden said.

Waterville Mayor Nick Isgro applauded the library for its work Monday and congratulated it on receiving the medal.


“I think it’s a testimony to the passion and dedication of our library staff and in particular Sarah Sugden, who is an advocate, not only just for the library but for all of those in the community that it serves,” Isgro said in a phone interview. “I also think this is a great compliment to the library’s board of trustees, which is a very talented and special mix of people who bring a wide array of talent and passion to our public library. They’re a great group of people.”

Isgro said he is proud of the honor bestowed on the library.

“The library is a resource that certainly has been invaluable to my own family. My wife, Amanda, and our kids go there often. I say this not only as the mayor but as a community member and father of those who use that resource.”

Cindy Jacobs, president of the library’s board of trustees, described the library, founded in 1896, as a “home and hub for today’s ever changing lifestyles and needs.”

“The staff and leadership have transformed our library from a typical lending library to a community resource that includes ‘everything libraries,’ technology for the public, jobs and career assistance and experiences of exposure to arts and culture,” Jacobs said. “We could not be prouder of their commitment to the community and their flexibility to see the future needs of our residents and adapt to support them.”

City Manager Michael Roy on Monday praised the library for receiving the accolade.


“I think it’s a tremendous honor not only for the library, but for the city as a whole to be receiving because the library represents a lot of what a city stands for,” Roy said.

He said the library has received positive attention the last several years for developing innovative programs that help people in the community beyond just providing books and tapes.

“I think this award is a recognition of that ability and willingness to provide a lot more than the traditional library offerings that we’ve always had,” Roy said.

The library, located on Elm Street, was built in 1905 with a $20,000 gift from Andrew Carnegie. A multimillion-dollar renovation and expansion was completed six years ago.

The city library provides 14 computers and 12 laptop computers to the public, as well as a teaching and learning space and business and career center that offers services for job seekers, business owners and others.

U.S. senators Susan Collins and Angus King signed a nomination letter for the library and congratulated it in a joint statement, saying the recognition is highly prestigious and well-deserved.


“For more than 120 years, the Waterville Public Library has been a cornerstone of the community, providing important information and services to Waterville residents,” the statement says. “Most notably, the library opened its Business, Career and Creativity Center in March of 2011, which offers assistance to local job seekers, entrepreneurs and businesses. We applaud the library’s array of efforts to strengthen the Waterville area economy and community.”

U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree also lauded the library in a statement, saying the National Medal is well-deserved for the library’s “exceptional work to meet the needs of the community at an important point in its history.”

“As Waterville deals with significant economic changes, the library has made it a priority to help residents who are looking to find work, change careers, or start their own businesses,” Pingree said in the statement. “I am grateful that this wonderful organization has been there for my constituents when they’ve needed it most. My congratulations to the Waterville Public Library on receiving this prestigious honor.”

The Waterville library is the only entity in Maine to receive a 2017 medal. Alisia Revitt, vice president of the Maine Library Association, said it is inspiring that the library has been recognized as only one of 10 libraries and museums nationwide.

“If you look at the list of winners, Waterville is alongside much larger institutions, so it shows how much of an impression they made on the IMLS judges,” Revitt said Monday. “The staff and volunteers at Waterville set a great example of how a library can serve its community in ways that go beyond checking items in and out. They have really taken a core principle of libraries — bringing information and knowledge to those who need it — and applied it in different ways to improve lives in the community.”

According to the Institute, medal recipients have employed powerful programs and services that exceed expected levels of community outreach, in some cases changing the lives of those who enter the doors.


Other winners include the Aspen Art Museum in Colorado, Richland Library in Columbia, South Carolina, and the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center in Skokie, Illinois.

The awards will be presented this summer at an event in Washington, D.C. After that, each organization will be visited by StoryCorps, a national nonprofit organization that records and preserves the stories of Americans, to document stories in each community. The visit will provide an opportunity for people in the community to share stories of their lives and those stories will be preserved at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, according to Katie Kajfez of Susan Davis International, a communications and public affairs agency based in Washington, D.C.

Kajfez said Monday that 172 entities have received the National Medal in the 23 years it has been awarded. More than 100 institutions around the country applied for the medal.

Recipients at the ceremony in July will receive the medal, as well as $5,000, for extraordinary civic, educational, economic, environmental and social contributions, according to Kajfez.

Sugden said representatives of the Maine State Library encouraged Waterville library officials to apply for the medal.

Amy Calder — 861-9247


Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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