Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library of Topeka, KS has been named the 2016 Library of the Year by Library Journal magazine and Gale, a part of Cengage Learning. The Library of the Year is a prestigious recognition awarded to a library that profoundly demonstrates service to community, creativity, leadership and innovation in developing community programs. The Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library was recognized for ingenuity in bringing library staff, and their knowledge and skills, out from behind library walls and into all areas of community life.
“There is something special happening in Topeka & Shawnee County that is a model for innovative library work everywhere,” said Rebecca T. Miller, editorial director of Library Journal. “As never before, libraries are conveners of the most important conversations that shape our communities and igniting the relationships that make positive changes possible. Above and beyond all the services and creativity we expect from an excellent institution such as this, this library and its broad leadership is embracing its capacity to take this important role to a new level. For exemplary work, we are proud to name the Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library the 2016 Library of the Year.”
The Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library serves a community of nearly 180,000 residents. As a library district, they do not have physical branches throughout the community, so they have to be creative and strategic to reach residents across their service area. The library focuses on developing staff as trained facilitators, helping them hone the necessary skills to go out into the community and partner with different organizations. In addition, coordinating closely with a local non-profit visioning organization, the library plays a key role in understanding and establishing what people want from their community now and in the future, and thus has a seat at the table for important community decisions.
“Working with our fellow citizens and in our community is the only way to ensure that the library is doing its best to contribute to the common good and to help make Topeka and Shawnee County a better place to live, work, play and learn,” said Gina Millsap, Chief Executive Officer, Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library. “After 40 years as a librarian, I believe we can change the world. We’re doing that by working with and in our communities. Librarians are well suited to this work and facilitation skills are part of the toolkit for 21st century librarians. Our roles as leaders, conveners, facilitators and partners, combined with our skills as information professionals, position us to help effect positive community change and are key to our success now and in the future.”
Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library staff are directly involved in all aspects of community life. They serve as reference librarians to entrepreneurs at a local industrial makerspace and shared work space. At a job center in an economically depressed neighborhood, embedded librarians work with residents to search for new jobs and help them learn new skills. When budget cuts put its free lunch program in jeopardy, the library staffed story times and lunch times at a local elementary school and later moved the service to the library itself. The library collaborates with organizations such as the county parks and recreation department, the chamber of commerce, rotary club and more to understand their different needs and facilitate solutions for the community.
“It’s an honor to recognize the Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library as their work so closely mirrors our focus at Gale to bring library resources and information directly to the user, no matter where they are,” said Harmony Faust, vice president of marketing for Gale. “It’s exciting to see the positive impact they have on the community through this approach.”
The 2016 Library of the Year Award will be presented along with $10,000 in prize money at a reception taking place during the American Library Association Annual Conference in Orlando, FL, on June 26.
About Cengage Learning and Gale
Cengage Learning (cengage.com | gale.cengage.com) is a leading educational content, technology, and services company for the higher education and K-12, professional, library and workforce training markets worldwide. Gale, a part of Cengage Learning, has been a global provider of research resources for libraries and businesses for more than 60 years. Gale is passionate about supporting the continued innovation and evolution of libraries by providing the content, tools, and services libraries need to promote information discovery, enable learning, and support economic, cultural, and intellectual growth in their communities.
About Library Journal
Founded in 1876, Library Journal (libraryjournal.com) is one of the oldest and most respected publications covering the library field. Over 75,000 library directors, administrators, and staff in public, academic, and special libraries read LJ. Library Journal reviews over 8000 books, audiobooks, videos, databases, and websites annually, and provides coverage of technology, management, policy, and other professional concerns. Library Journal is a publication of Media Source Inc., which also owns School Library Journal, The Horn Book publications, and Junior Library Guild.