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Spokane Public Library a finalist for national award – The Spokesman-Review

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Spokane Public Library has been named a finalist for the prestigious National Medal for Museum and Library Service awarded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services to recognize the work libraries do in their communities that goes above lending books.

“It’s really the top award for libraries in the United States,” the Amanda Donovan, the Spokane Public Library’s director of marketing and communications. “It’s really exciting to be a finalist.”

The National Medal awards are given to both libraries and museums. Every year 30 finalists – 15 libraries and 15 museums – are selected. The top five libraries and top five museums that will receive a National Medal will be announced in late April.

“They’re looking for significant contributions to the community,” Donovan said.

The library has several programs that caught the eye of the Institute, Donovan said, including the “Books for Babies” program. Every baby born in Spokane gets a kit that includes a board book, a library card, bookmark, tips on reading literacy for parents and a list of story times at local library branches.

The goal is to encourage reading, Donovan said. “All research shows you can read to your baby from day one,” she said.

They also have an outreach program at Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital for children who are in the hospital for long term treatment. “We have librarians and volunteers who give one on one craft time and story time in their rooms,” she said.

The library also keeps Kindle Fires at the hospital that parents and patients can check out and use to access the library’s digital offerings, including audio books. “It’s a really cool program,” she said.

There are other community programs as well. The Downtown Library hosts Community Court for people with low-level, nonviolent charges every Monday and invites about 30 social service agencies to provide services to those attending court. The Downtown Library puts on Lilac City Live once a month, an event that showcases local authors, artists and musicians.

The library also offers fine-free cards to all Spokane Public Schools students as a way to encourage reading and use of the library’s digital resources. There’s also a program that provides people with library cards after they are released from prison.

Though library cards are free, sometimes people need an extra push to sign up for one, Donovan said. “Some people see some barriers to coming in and getting one,” she said.

The goal is to provide innovative programs and make the library a community gathering place, “not just a stagnant repository of stuff,” she said.

“We work hard every day to bring innovative services to the community and not just focus on books,” Donovan said.

The Spokane Public Library Foundation, which helps fund some of the library’s community programs, bought a cake for each library branch so staff could celebrate the library being named a National Medal finalist.

“The staff works hard every day to bring services to the community,” Donovan said.

National Medal winners will travel to Washington, D.C., for an awards ceremony this spring. Whether or not Spokane wins, Donovan said staff members are pleased the library was named a finalist.

“It is the recognition of significant contributions to the community and the world of libraries and museums,” she said. “It is very, very exciting to be a finalist.”