Flint Public Library in running for nation's top honor for service to community

The Flint Public Library is being recognized as one of the best in the nation for its commitment to public service and community outreach. 

Located in downtown Flint on the Cultural Center Campus, the library serves 500 people a day and is the host of cultural programing, neighborhood groups, and programing for all ages. The library has focused over the last few years on digital learning and early childhood literacy — two priorities that came into focus through its work with the Flint Master Plan and Flint and Genesee Literacy Network, library Director Kay Schwartz said. 

“We were well underway ramping up programs for early childhood literacy when the water crisis made it imperative that all Flint children get as much early childhood development as possible,” she said. The library now is a key partner in a program that puts books in barber shops for children to read while they wait, the Dolly Parton Imagination Imagination Library (which gives a free book every month to children age 5 and younger), and operates a mobile tech studio for children to learn robotics. 

The Institute of Museum and Library Services announced Tuesday that the Flint Public Library is one of two in Michigan and 30 nationwide selected as a finalist for the 2019 National Medal for Museum and Library Service. It is the nation’s highest honor given to museums and libraries for service to their communities.

“I think one of the Library’s great achievements in the past decade was finding a way to be financially sustainable after the terrible economic downturn here. We had a lot of help getting through it, from both funders and voters, and we are now on a stable financial course,” Schwartz said. “It’s amazing to me to look at our schedule of library programs and see how much we can do for the community with the resources we have. That’s our Library staff. That’s ‘Flint Strong.’ I’m thrilled we have national recognition of just how extraordinary that is.”
The other Michigan finalist is the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research located at the University of Michigan campus in Ann Arbor. 

For 25 years, The Institute of Museum and Library Services has awarded The National Medal to institutions that demonstrate innovative approaches to public service and that make a difference for individuals, families, and communities. 

“The 30 National Medal finalists showcase the tremendous ability of libraries and museums to serve as vital community resources,” Director Kathryn K. Matthew said in a press release. “The Institute of Museum and Library Services is honored to recognize these leading institutions. We congratulate them on the work they are doing across the United States.”

Once the National Medal winners have been announced later this spring, representatives from winning institutions will be honored at the National Medal award ceremony on June 12 in Washington, D.C.

Because finalists are chosen due to their significant contributions to their communities, The Institute of Museum and Library Services is encouraging community members who have visited Flint Public Library to share their story on social media. 

To share your story, please visit www.facebook.com/USIMLS or www.twitter.com/us_imls and use #IMLSmedals.

Read more articles by Ashley Schafer.

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