2023 I Partner With My Public Library Award Honorable Mentions

During Summer 2023, a call for nominations for the inaugural I Partner with My Public Library Award received 55 submissions. The final list of the 10 awardees was published on October 1, 2023, and the final list of Honorable Mentions was published on November 1, 2023. This page contains the Honorable Mentions organized into three categories:

With such a strong pool of applicants, the process of selecting only 10 awardees was extraordinarily difficult. We wanted to celebrate more than 10, and that led to the process of awarding Honorable Mentions!

We invite you to read on about these amazing community collaborators, and if you missed this year’s call to nominate your public library’s key community collaborators, don’t worry. This annual award to celebrate the power of community partnerships will again solicit nominations in Summer 2024.

Go to the I Partner with My Public Library Award webpage to learn more about this initiative.

Local Non-Profits

We are thrilled to award the following local non-profit organizations with a 2023 Honorable Mention:

  • Batesville Help & Hope, Inc., Arkansas
  • Child Hunger Outreach Partners (CHOP) of Towanda, Pennsylvania
  • First United Methodist Church, Conway, Arkansas
  • Grove Christian Outreach Center, Virginia
  • Healthy Chesapeake, Virginia
  • Michael and Kathy Nerrie of Distant Hill Nature Trail, New Hampshire
  • Whiskers TNR of Warren County, Iowa

Batesville Help & Hope, Inc., Arkansas

Sloane Lott, of the Independence County Library, in Batesville, Arkansas, writes in a nomination letter that “As a small rural library serving over 37,723 (2021) county residents, our budget would never allow us to offer the ‘canTEEN,’ an afterschool program for young adults ages 13-18 years old. Since the summer of 2021, Batesville Help & Hope has partnered with our library to consistently provide light meals, snacks, and drinks for our Teen Lounge. Help & Hope has delivered over $10,000 worth of food and beverage to our library,” both in support of the canTEEN and through the provision of fresh produce to library patrons.

Lott writes that “Many teens walk to the library after school while others who reside farther away ride their school bus to the library. As soon as they arrive, they make a beeline for the refrigerator to grab a drink and prepare microwaveable meals or enjoy a simpler snack before beginning homework or socializing with peers. In the winter or on rainy days, nothing is as tempting as the hot chocolate Help & Hope supplies. Most of these teens would be going to an empty house with no supervision; some would go home to place without food. Without this partnership, I believe the teen lounge would not be as appealing or inviting to our area teens. While they think they are just here to eat and hang out, the supervision our library staff offers lessens the likelihood that teenagers will commit a crime, be the victim of a crime, or engage in risky behavior.”

Batesville Help & Hope, Inc., is a charitable agency that partners with the Arkansas Food Bank to connect food and resources to those in need.

Child Hunger Outreach Partners (CHOP) of Towanda, Pennsylvania

Mary Grace Collier-Kisler, the S.W. Smith Memorial Public Library Director writes in their nomination of Child Hunger Outreach Partners (CHOP) of Towanda, PA that “the Seneca Library District…is a small, rural library district in an area that is economically challenged and food insecure. In 2022, eight libraries of the Seneca Library District worked with CHOP in to distribute free summer snacks, and the total snacks given to children by those libraries during the summer of 2022 was 37,206.”

Collier-Kisler writes “Here is the amazing part: CHOP delivered bulk snacks to each library in the Seneca District. This is extremely noteworthy because the Seneca District is a logistical challenge. The closest library to CHOP’s location in Towanda is my library, the S.W. Smith Memorial Public Library in Port Allegany, and it is a 110 mile drive one-way from Towanda to Port Allegany.” She also says “CHOP is so dedicated to feeding hungry children that they stressed their own resources to give food to public libraries for summer distribution. CHOP is a non-profit and they never once asked the libraries for financial help.”

Collier-Kisler sums up the nomination by saying “we are grateful to have CHOP as a community partner who shares our mission and we recognize their herculean efforts in assisting the Seneca Library District battle food insecurity in children during the summer months.”

First United Methodist Church of Conway, Arkansas

Mary Spears Polk, children’s librarian at Faulkner County Library in Arkansas, nominated First United Methodist Church (FUMC) in Conway, Arkansas, for their partnership that has transformed their summer feeding program in an area with “very low food security.” Polk quotes library director John McGraw in her nomination: “I nominate First United Church Conway for their commitment not just to providing food to those who need it in our community with as few barriers as possible, but for also being excellent partners who take the time to understand how libraries work and how to best support them.” 

The library struggled from 2018 to 2021 to provide the community with a much-needed feeding program for children over summer break. The burden was high on staff, but participation was low, often due to USDA program regulations that kept some families from getting food. However, a strong partnership was born when FUMC Conway approached the library starting a new program ahead of summer 2022. 

Polk writes that the partnership was especially strong because FUMC Conway brought “clarity about what they bring to the partnership, and their intention to learn about how the library works so that they could be as supportive as possible with the program.” FUMC said they could purchase, assemble, and deliver 100 lunches 3 days per week – and agreed to give away lunches without asking questions or having participants meet qualifications. “We would simply give them away until they were gone,” Polk writes. 

The library helped raise the remaining funds to purchase food for the program, and created and hosted the “Lunch & a Movie” program on the days when the free lunches were served. Library attendance already peaks while school is out for the summer, but McGraw shared that “the three locations serving food averaged a 24.27% increase in attendance, and in Conway it was 33.54%.”

Not only did FUMC provide food and volunteers, but Polk commends their ongoing commitment to improvement. “FUMC regularly inquired how the program was working for library staff and our patrons,” Polk writes. “They have done an excellent job keeping the lines of communication open, which has resulted in an increase to 120 lunches per day.” 

“We cannot stress how once FUMC learned about our patrons, they were determined to remove as many barriers as possible for families to access the food,” Polk continues. “Their commitment to an inclusive, no questions asked summer food program combined with their care for how their local library works, their excellent communication skills, and their reliable actions is why this program works so successfully.”

McGraw sums up the impact of the partnership: “Those lunches have had an impact that is immeasurably broad — and the dividends will be paid back to the community for years to come.” 

For more information, read the First United Methodist Church newsletter from August 2023.

Grove Christian Outreach Center, Virginia

Desiree Parker of Williamsburg Regional Library (WRL), Virginia, writes that “One of the most recent contributions Grove Christian Outreach Center (GCOC) has made to the library has been its generous provision of space and active promotion of our Spanish language program, Cena con Cuentos. By offering a physical location for our program, as well as sharing the information with its Spanish-speaking community, the Center has enabled us to reach a wider audience, promote literacy, and foster inclusivity within our community.

“Over the winter of 2022, Grove Christian Outreach Center actively participated in our inaugural winter accessories drive by assisting in the distribution of hats and gloves to Grove residents. Their commitment to community welfare and involvement has always been a key part of their mission, and their assistance with this initiative was a continuation of their effort to distribute items to people in need.”

Parker adds that “Every summer, the Center has played a pivotal role in WRL’s summer reading initiatives as one of our dedicated stops. Their commitment to literacy and education has enhanced our program, ensuring that children and families in the Grove community have a welcoming and enriching environment to explore the joy of reading during the summer months.”

Additionally, GCOC has gone “above and beyond by allowing the library to utilize their parking lot as a broadcasting point for community Wi-Fi. This invaluable support has helped bridge the digital divide and provided internet access to those who may not have it otherwise, creating opportunities for individuals to engage with vital online resources provided by WRL’s outreach team. In 2020, GCOC partnered with us to provide a location for our mobile census van. Their collaboration enabled us to reach traditionally undercounted populations and ensure that our community was accurately represented in the census data.

Beyond these specific initiatives, “GCOC has consistently supported us by helping gather survey responses when needed to help us evaluate WRL services and by sharing library news and information with its neighbors. The Center’s dedication to promoting our programs and services has helped to increase our outreach and engagement within the Grove community.”

Summing it up, Parker writes that “GCOC is an exceptional, longtime partner that has consistently demonstrated an unwavering commitment to collaborating with our library system that makes a significant difference in the Grove community through their dedicated support.”

Healthy Chesapeake, Virginia

Melissa Christakos, the Strategic Initiative Librarian at the Chesapeake Public Library, Virginia, lists in her nomination of Healthy Chesapeake the outcomes of the organization’s Healthy Chef program. In the past year, the program purchased additional cooking supplies for their mobile kitchens, delivered weekly nutritional classes, provided food demonstrations and distributed diabetes/hypertension information at the library’s annual Staff Day, participated in Chesapeake Seed Festival, and supported the Chesapeake Public Library Summer Reading Carnival. 

Melissa writes, “one of the library’s objectives is to reduce barriers to learning which includes food insecurity and healthy eating. This ties in perfectly with Healthy Chesapeake’s Healthy Chef and Garden2Table programs.” In 2022, Healthy Chesapeake’s Garden2Table program funded a community garden at the Dr. Clarence V. Cuffee Outreach & Innovation Library with a grant from AARP. “It features three new raised garden beds, gardening tools designed for seniors, concrete seating arrangements, and a wheelchair-accessible planting bench.” 

To celebrate the opening of this garden, Healthy Chesapeake and the Chesapeake Public Library hosted a Golden Age Party with other local partners. Melissa writes “We demonstrated the new garden tools as we encouraged seniors to put in new fall plantings…The seniors were very impressed with the large handles on the tools…Participants also received flu shots, A1C testing, educational sessions on Fall plantings, chair yoga, and Senior IDs.”

To sum up the nomination, Melissa says, “we are so thankful for the partnership, support, and guidance of Healthy Chesapeake. Our staff appreciates the leadership of Phyllis Stoneburner, the care and commitment that her staff put into making Chesapeake a healthier city.”

Michael and Kathy Nerrie of Distant Hill Nature Trail, New Hampshire

Julie Rios, Librarian at Walpole Town Library, New Hampshire, writes in their nomination of Michael and Kathy Nerrie, owners of Distant Hill Nature Trail, that “we have partnered with Distant Hill Nature Trail on a community story walk for over 3 years.” Michael received a grant that was used to purchase metal stands and sturdy page holders for the story pages. “This set up allows us to have stories all year long, regardless of weather.”

The story walk involves seeing one page of the book at a time while on a walk and each page has an activity to get to the next page. “For example, hop like a frog to the next page.” This partnership perfectly combines reading, physical activity, and environmental education. Several local papers have written stories on the Distant Hill story walk and this has “seen visitors increase substantially, coming from all over New England and even further!”

Whiskers TNR of Warren County, Iowa

Jean Strable of Norwalk Easter Public Library, writes in a nomination letter that “In spring 2022, Whiskers TNR (Trap-Neuter-Return)’s leadership met with me to brainstorm ways to work together so both organizations could meet their goals and missions.  We decided to offer “Caturdays” at the library one Saturday each month with Whiskers’ volunteers providing safe access to adoptable cats and kittens at the library for a two-hour meet-and-greet session.  Each Caturday has a fun, educational component to help teach the attendees about the TNR program, financially fostering, creating winter cat shelters, volunteer needs, fostering, special needs of senior cats, and more.

“Caturdays have been tremendously successful with between 65-200+ attendees each month!  People travel to our small community from the Des Moines metro area to snuggle kitties and spend time engaging with the volunteers.  Some folks who cannot own cats due to family members’ allergies, living arrangements, or other circumstances make it a point to visit each month.  These programs provide not only educational opportunities, but valuable mental and emotional benefits of getting to relax and show affection to an animal in need.  There was one senior whose circumstances did not allow for her to adopt a cat, so she attended Caturdays and would cuddle a kitten for the entire two hours as it slept in her arms!”

One area mom wrote about her son’s experience: “Jackson LOVED Caturday and specifically asked to go to your next one.  It’s hard to impress a 14 year old boy, so good job, and I appreciated having something fun to do with him.  You’ll have to let us know when you have another!”

Through this and other collaborations, “Whiskers TNR has seen an increase in volunteers, foster families, adoption applications, and adoptions.  The library has enjoyed increased door count and higher program attendance statistics.  Both organizations have increased visibility within the community and stronger fulfillment of our missions.  We have also noticed an improvement in our community’s perceptions about strays and a support for better treatment of animals on social media.”

Other collaborations include:

  • The library’s Cat Cafe:  “The teens attending the weekly Teen Takeover enjoyed cuddling kittens and cats after a stressful day at school.”
  • At the library’s annual Fall Festival, “Whiskers’ volunteers provided and distributed nearly 20 styrofoam winter shelters to help provide a warmer, dry place for outdoor cats.”
  • At the library’s annual staff in-service day “Whiskers kitties and volunteers provided kittens for a meet-and-greet while volunteers talk about what services Whiskers offers to the community.”
  • At the library’s ‘Chair-ish’ library fundraiser, “Every other year the library encourages local artists to decorate chairs which are auctioned at the library to support library programming. Whiskers decorated a cat-themed chair which was one of the favorites at the auction.”

Strable concludes, “We frequently discuss what other programs or services we might work on together. We evaluate our current programs. We felt strongly that this type of partnership and program is inexpensive and easy to replicate in other libraries, so we presented at the 2023 Iowa Libraries Online Conference about ‘A Purr-fect Productive Partnership: Non-profits Helping Pets.’ We are pleased that several Iowa libraries have started their own partnerships with animal support/rescue organizations. The library and Whiskers have combined our efforts to serve our community to make the world a better place for humans and felines. Whiskers TNR of Warren County leadership and volunteers are always on board to partner with the library and we are grateful to have their ongoing support!”

Whiskers TNR is a nonprofit organization that is 100% donation funded and 100% volunteer managed.  The group is making a difference one cat at a time by offsetting spay/neuter expenses for Warren County cats; providing education on TNR; and educating on the care of community cats.

Local government and local business

We are thrilled to award the following local government entities and local businesses with a 2023 Honorable Mention:

  • Amanda Hurley, Shelby Soil & Water Conservation District, Ohio
  • Centerville-Washington Park District, Ohio
  • Downtown Bay City, Michigan
  • Elevate Farms, Georgia
  • Fleet Feet of Montclair, New Jersey
  • Jasmine Brown of Lasterday Market, Virginia
  • Nottoway County Public Schools, Virginia
  • Rural Soul Music Studio, New York
  • The Iredell County Partnership for Young Children, North Carolina
  • The Ross County Health District, Ohio
  • Valley Program for Aging Services, Virginia

Amanda Hurley of Shelby Soil & Water Conservation District, Ohio

Rikki Unterbrink, the Director of Youth Services at Shelby County Libraries, Ohio, writes in their nomination of Amanda Hurley, Education and Outreach Coordinator of Shelby Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD), that “In March of 2023 our main location in Sidney launched a series of programs in partnership with SWCD called Plant the Seeds to Read. Over a two-month period Amanda did two Conservation Storytimes and two Conservation Creations programs for our location on different topics from worms (she even brought live worms for the kids to touch and explore!) to nest balls and bird feeders.” 

Hurley reached out to five other community locations to bring the Plant the Seeds to Read program to those locations for free. Hurley even helped Shelby County Libraries receive a grant. Unterbrink writes “In June 2023 we collaborated with Amanda and the Shelby Soil and Water Conservation District on another exciting project. Amanda used her connection with the OSU extension office to get us a grant for a ‘Plant by Number’ pollinator garden in one of our outside flower beds. Amanda coordinated the grant, transported our new plants and even helped plant them! As if this incredible donation of her time wasn’t enough, Amanda even went the extra mile and wrote the press release for the new garden.”

In the summer of 2023, Hurley continued to provide conservation and nature programs at Shelby County Libraries’ six locations. In the future, the Library’s “plans with SWCD include more Conservation Storytime with themes such as ants and turkey tracks, plus we hope to install a new Smart Bird Feeder at our Sidney location.”

Becki Wood, Location Coordinator at A.J. Wise Ft. Loramie Community Library writes “Amanda Hurley with Soil and Water Conservation has been an incredible partnership for our library branch location in Ft. Loramie. She is always willing and eager to visit with us and provide quality programming for children of all ages.” 

Unterbrink sums it up by saying that “the Shelby County Libraries mission is “Enriching Lives” and Amanda has helped us do that in so many ways. Her attitude, creativity and knowledge enrich the lives of so many of our patrons.” 

Centerville-Washington Park District

Shelby Quinlivan of Washington-Centerville Public Library (WCPL), Ohio, writes in a nomination letter that “WCPL and Centerville-Washington Park District (CWPD) have been collaborating partners for years – providing the community with robust joint programming such as nature walks, book discussions, poetry walks, haunted trails, Race to the Holidays 5K and more. Several of the parks are host to Little Free Libraries, which are installed by the Friends of the Library. In 2023, WCPL and CWPD introduced a seed library to provide the community with free seed packets – grown and packed by CWPD and distributed at WCPL. The program has been a complete success, with seeds being available (and quickly taken!) from March through August.

“Washington-Centerville Public Library was selected as a host for The Wall That Heals, a ¾ replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. in July 2023. The vast exhibit was too large for any of the library locations, but when asked to partner with us, Centerville Washington Park District jumped in to provide the perfect landscape – Yankee Park. Not only did they provide the actual space for the exhibit, but they volunteered their staff and crew (even the Executive Director, Kristen Marks!) to assist in the construction and deconstruction of The Wall That Heals, and provided electric and trash collection for the duration of the exhibit. Ken Carter, Park Operations Manager, even took an overnight volunteer shift for the exhibit when we were short-handed. We quite literally could not have done it without them. An estimated 4,700 people visited Yankee Park over a five-day time frame for the exhibit and we heard many wonderful compliments on the beauty and cleanliness of the park.”

Downtown Bay City, Michigan

Cora Schaeff of Alice & Jack Wirt Public Library in Bay City, Michigan writes that, “My relationship with Kellie Rupp, Marketing Director for Downtown Bay City, began after I heard a fellow librarian at a conference in March of 2022 share how he had worked with downtown businesses to provide a story walk for families. Our library branch is located downtown, and I could not wait to return to work to figure out who I might be able to collaborate with. Kellie was available to meet right away. We spent about two hours brainstorming how we might collaborate. We started the ‘Sundays in the City’ storywalk that first winter with 14 businesses participating! It was so successful that we are doing it again this year.”

“At the very same meeting, I bounced the idea of a tween program that I wanted to create. ‘Urban Explorers’ would walk from the library to different downtown businesses, non-profits, and art and culture hubs to meet the owners and understand the cool happenings right in our very own backyard. Kellie encouraged me to try this out and last year, 10 kids and I visited a different downtown sight from October – May, on foot regardless of the weather. This year will be ‘Pages & Pizza’ version, exploration of the pizza restaurants downtown!”

“In the spring of 2023, we met again to figure out how the library might have a presence downtown. I love to be outdoors anytime that I can, so imagine the excitement of offering Storytime Yoga during the summer outdoors on the ‘Feet on the Street’ turf area. It was so fun explaining to passerbyers what we were up to, and sharing the amazing resources available at the library, just a few blocks away. Water Street Nutrition, in downtown Bay City, generously provided coupons for free shakes to those that completed our summer reading program. Kellie not only posted to promote the downtown business, but listed information about our summer reading program as well!”

Another partnership growing out of this relationship have been storytimes at Populace Coffee. Schaeff said “I began my position as the Children’s Department Head in December of 2021, and had wanted to start a storytime at a local coffee house. I reached out to the downtown coffee houses in person and by email, but had not yet made a connection by that March. Kellie set me up with the owner of Populace Coffee and we now do a monthly storytime downtown in the coffee house. Harmoni, of Populace, and myself agree that this is a win-win: we both have new customers, we are meeting families where they are at, and it is just so fun. Of course this is thanks to the relationship that Kelllie started!”

“Our latest conversation involved how the library might participate in the annual Lighting of the Christmas Tree and Santa’s arrival. We have not even been working together for two years, can you imagine what we might come up with next?”

Summing it up, Schaeff said “I have worked at multiple library systems and I understand the importance of getting to know your community and collaborating with others in order to provide unique opportunities for families. Kellie has made this part so easy for me with her sunny disposition, ‘can-do’ attitude, and encouragement. Kellie works for and represents many businesses downtown, and they have all been fantastic to work with, but it is Kellie who assisted in facilitating these relationships that I now have for our library. In addition to her daily work, Kellie is also very involved in our community and spends many of her weekends running or attending downtown events.”

Learn more on Downtown Bay City’s Facebook page, where they actively promote and support the library. Kellie includes the library in a weekly email of Downtown Happenings.

StoryWalks Downtown

Book Bike Downtown

Library program downtown

Storytime Yoga downtown

Elevate Farms, LLC, Georgia

Michelle Bennett-Copeland of the Fayette County Public Library, Fayetteville, GA writes in a nomination letter that, “Elevate Farms is a partner in our seed library. This initiative provides an opportunity for citizens to take garden seeds from the designated seed catalog at the library, while donating seeds in return. Take One, Bring One is the concept. The Seed Library began Thursday, June 1, 2023. Elevate Farms also provided library patrons with bell pepper plants and squash on the opening day! The patrons were thrilled! We’ve provided over 200 seed packets to patrons since the opening day!”

Fleet Feet of Montclair, New Jersey

The Montclair Free Public Library Foundation’s Kelly Ziek nominated Fleet Feet, a local family-owned running store, for their 15-year partnership with the Montclair Free Public Library. Ziek writes: “Owners Dawn and John Fabbro work diligently to not only inspire and empower this community to live a healthy and active lifestyle, they also strive to give back in service where they can.” 

Fleet Feet’s motto is, “No matter the goal, pace or experience level, Fleet Feet supports their customers, training program participants, and community members every step of the way.” One way they have put this motto into practice is through the annual “No Boundaries 5K Training” class put on by Fleet Feet and MPL each spring through the library’s Adult School department. 

This fun 8-week course culminates with participants running in a local 5K race as a team and serves as an “unintimidating” and supportive environment for community members to develop a healthier lifestyle through group exercise and health education. MPL Adult School Supervisor Maurice Boyer says that this class is “easily the most popular recurring class the Adult School offers — with registrations regularly exceeding 80 each year.” 

The program builds connections to the library —and provides impactful financial support. Participant fees for the course raise nearly $10,000 each year for Montclair Free Public Library. MPL Library Director Janet Torsney says, “Aside from the money raised — for which we are sincerely grateful — Fleet Fleet gives community members a novel way to support their library. Even those not participating in the class can cheer on their friends and family during the 5K while meeting all of the dedicated library staff that work at those events.” 

In its 15th year, the partnership is expanding to include the organization Black Man Run with a special program on the effect of incarceration on families and health, featuring a group run, documentary screening of Run for His Life, and a discussion led by Judge Victoria Pratt, renowned expert on restorative justice.

Ziek sums up the partnership as “a wonderful example of how a community can be transformed when people get out of their buildings and run around town.” To learn more about another way that Fleet Feet has supported its local library, read the article, “Fleet Feet’s ‘Midland Mile’ raises money for Montclair Public Library.” 

Jasmine Brown of Lasterday Market, Virginia

Michaela Crawford and Letha Hibbitts of Craig County Public Library, Virginia writes in their nomination of Jasmine Brown and Lasterday Market, “We…[want] to deliver the love of reading to everyone in our community. However, limited space is a major dilemma. Jasmine Brown, owner of Lasterday Market, a restaurant in the area, offered her space to host Mr. and Mrs Claus “so that children could have their picture with Santa, free pancakes, and hot cocoa.” The library also hosted their annual meeting here with author Beth Macy. Jasmine has a permanent area in the restaurant for library books so customers can read while they wait for their food. 

The library will continue to work with Lasterday Market and Jasmine in the future. Michaela and Letha say “we are beyond grateful to Jasmine and her employees not only for the space, but for their assistance with events as well going above and beyond to ensure each event is memorable and we are able to share our love of books and reading to as many as possible”

Nottoway County Public Schools, Virginia

Students visited the Crewe branch after meeting their Read Up goals and earning a field trip to the library.

Herbarium program led by public library staff in the high school library at lunch time.

In a nomination letter, Nottoway County Public Library Director Jacqueline Zataweski calls the library’s partnership with the Nottoway County School District a “blessing” that allows them to “reach the county’s young people where they are — in school — while at the same time providing the students with access to print materials, and awareness of electronic resources, that they otherwise would not have.”

The partnership with the school district began in 2016 with visits by Zataweski to Burkeville Elementary, where she shared stories and the print collection with the Head Start classroom. She writes, “For many young students, this was the only time they encountered a library representative, so these visits provided the children an opportunity to benefit from library resources without having to be taken to one of our branches.” 

Since then, the partnership has expanded to include unique relationships with all five district schools that include outreach and collection-sharing. Family night programs at the intermediate and high schools provide opportunities to share information about public library resources and engage in themed activities like art, crafts, and poetry to, as Zataweski puts it, “help bring home the idea that the modern library is not a place where children are shushed – it’s a place where they can have fun.” 

Zataweski describes the school district as “instrumental” in helping the library spread the word about their resources. Library staff are able to visit the school district’s career fairs, the annual back-to-school “Parking Lot Party,” and individual schools and classrooms to help students register for public library cards and raise awareness about free resources like Hoopla, tutoring, and the Dolly Parton Imagination Library. They also can use school bulletin boards and send flyers home with around 800 students each month. 

“I’ve heard that the district’s media specialists have a book budget of roughly $4 per student, making it hard for them to offer all of the latest and greatest fiction titles while also updating their non-fiction collections,” Zataweski says. “We, on the other hand, have considerably more funds to spend on books but we do not see the same number of children coming through the doors as the schools.” 

To help meet the needs of the school district, the library shares their collection by circulating their Easy and Juvenile materials through the Crewe Primary School library. “Students enjoy having access to a wider range of titles than their school library owns, and the circulation of public library materials (through the school) means that our books are getting into the hands of children who may never find their way to our branch locations,” Zataweski writes. “This partnership accounted for 37% of our Easy and Juvenile materials circulation last year, and we are working to expand the sharing to include the other schools.”

The partnership between the library and the district — and the impact on the students and families — continues to flourish. “Each year,” Zataweski writes,” it finds new ways to grow for the betterment of both their organization and ours.” 

EarthBeat Music (formerly Rural Soul Music Studio), New York

Kali Nagler, adult services librarian at Saratoga Springs Public Library, writes in their nomination of Rural Soul Music Studio (renamed EarthBeat Music in 2023) that “facilitating BIPOC-led West African drumming programs at a public library in a community largely populated by a majority [White] demographic provides opportunities for education, learning and shared multicultural experiences for people of all ages and abilities” that would be otherwise inaccessible.  

Studio owner Chelsie Henderson have over this 5+ year partnership brought numerous visiting djembe masters to the library for special programs. Nagler explains, “These special opportunities provide our patrons with authentic djembe drumming experiences led by BIPOC teachers from a different era who pass along the meaning, stories and rich history behind West African customs and traditions to younger generations. Our patrons would not have access to these informative, inspiring, enriching experiences without the dedication and respect for West African drumming Chelsie exemplifies.” 

A July 2018 workshop at the library inspired Nagler to seek grant opportunities to fund the purchase of authentic West African djembe drums for the library. Not only did Henderson and White write recommendation letters and testimonials that were included in Nagler’s successful grant application, they also secured a vendor of authentic handmade djembes who provided a discount and support in the ongoing care of the drums by tuning them. They even taught Nagler how to tune and play the drums so she can share that knowledge with others. 

Nagler writes, “I [now] facilitate these intergenerational community drum circles in the winter and host a local non-for-profit day program for adults with developmental disabilities seasonally. Chelsie not only gave me a proverbial fish, she taught me how to fish.”

Rural Soul Music Studio, currently located in Schulyerville, New York, has been offering music programming since 2012 to “complement and directly support [programming] in local schools and community centers,” according to the studio’s website. As the studio’s roster of instructors and instruments has expanded, “offering musical opportunities in programs that [are] not easily accessible in these somewhat remote, rural areas” has become a priority.  

In addition to providing opportunities to share tradition and music, the partnership between Rural Soul Music Studio and Saratoga Springs Public Library also promotes a healthy community. Nagler points out the physical and mental health benefits of drumming for patrons of every generation: “Not only are the movements, rhythms, sensations, vibrations and memorization of patterns good for your physical body, they are good for your brain.” To learn more about the health benefits of drumming, check out the resources from Drumming Spirit

Learn more in the article “Rural Soul In Schuylerville Brings World Music To The Capital Region” from Saratoga Living. 

The Iredell County Partnership for Young Children, North Carolina

Jenny Levins-Hertel, Librarian at Iredell County Public Library, North Carolina, writes in their nomination of the Iredell County Partnership for Young Children (ICPYC) that “ICPYC has worked closely with our library over the past few years to implement several new and exciting projects for County residents.” This includes funding StoryWalks in two local parks, a joint grant application to purchase new books for their Loads of Literacy program, a service that stocks local laundromats with free reading materials, and stocking the county Department of Social Services office with reading materials for all ages.

The partners also display and hand out each others resources at events and classes. For example, “ICPYC ended up using our library as the final stop in a Story Stroll, where participants could pick up their prize, a coin that could be exchanged for a free book at their home office.” ICPYC also provided library staff with training on sensory storytime practices for creating inclusive and accessible programming for children with sensory sensitivities. 

Jenny sums up their nomination by saying “our library has had the pleasure of working closely with ICPYC for several years now and has been consistently impressed by their professionalism, dedication, and passion for making a difference in the lives of children.”

The Ross County Health District, Ohio

James Hill of Chillicothe and Ross County Public Library, Chillicothe OH writes in a nomination letter that, “The Ross County Health District has been an invaluable partner for the Chillicothe and Ross County Public Library. There are several areas where the health district has provided guidance and direct funding, including:

  • Providing a grant to hire a Peer Support Staff person to work with patrons who have Substance Abuse Disorder.
  • Providing naloxone training and supplies for staff.
  • Helping create a community garden.
  • Funding a Book-A-Bike program.

Hill adds that, “Three years ago, when the Ross County Health District became a Creating Healthy Communities (CHC) site, they reached out to the community to inquire about partnerships to help initiate healthy programs in targeted neighborhoods. I had previous experience with a library Book-A-Bike check-out program and shared information about starting a bicycle lending program at the Chillicothe and Ross County Public Library. Using CHC money, the health district bought a starting fleet of 5 bicycles and two buggies that we circulate out of the Main Library. Shortly after the program started, the city of Chillicothe also bought two bicycles that can be checked out at the transit office. The program has been so popular that this year the health district used CHC money to expand into another library branch in town, Northside. We’re also adding self-check kiosks, so the bikes can be checked out even when the library is closed. Later this summer, CHC is again expanding Book-A-Bike to a third location, our county branch in Bainbridge. If it’s popular, we will continue to grow the program into our other county locations. Without the support of the Ross County Health District and the Creating Healthy Communities coordinator, the library would not have been able to fund any of these programs. It’s been a great partnership that I anticipate will continue to grow.”

Valley Program for Aging Services (VPAS), Virginia

Rachel McDowell and Heather Lawrence, one of the library’s VPAS partners, at a Fall-themed Decoupage Jar candle holder program. The self-care tie in (besides caregivers taking an hour to focus on themselves by crafting), is that when a caregiver feels overwhelmed or like they haven’t achieved anything in the day, they light the candle (flameless ones were also provided for anyone with a safety concern) and take a few deep breaths. This is to recenter the caregiver and to remind them that sometimes, even if it’s only for a minute, you need to focus on yourself.

In a nomination of the Valley Program for Aging Services (VPAS), the Waynesboro Public Library’s Rachel McDowell writes that VPAS has been “instrumental in [WPL]’s outreach and programming towards older patrons.” 

The mission of VPAS is “to empower those 60 years and older with the resources and opportunities they need to lead engaged lives,” serving as the local experts in aging for adults across Bath, Highland, Augusta, Rockingham, and Rockbridge counties in Virginia. Dementia education is an important part of their work, as there will be an estimated 190,000 Virginians living with dementia by 2025, according to VPAS. 

Shortly after McDowell first joined the Waynesboro Public Library, she gave a library services presentation at a local senior center run by VPAS. This kicked off a partnership that brought Dementia Friendly training to all library staff and, eventually, led to WPL becoming a Dementia Friendly Library. VPAS hopes to see more Dementia Friendly America designations across their service area. 

“VPAS is a great partner in their willingness to try different programs,” McDowell writes in her nomination. “VPAS led an eight-week series on Tai Chi for Arthritis and Fall Prevention at WPL…and started a group for those living with dementia and their caregivers, called Memory Partners. This is offered once a month and provides enrichment, companionship, and support.” 

WPL Director Susan Versen has strengthened the partnership between VPAS and WPL by working with VPAS to become a Dementia Champion, serving on the Dementia Steering Committee, and, recently, leading a training at the library on dementia and living well.

The partnership has been mutually beneficial for both organizations — and for the community. “Both VPAS and WPL have increased their reach into the greater Waynesboro community by working together on programs and initiatives that benefit older adults,” McDowell says. “Together we share information about services available to our seniors beyond our traditional outreach opportunities and channels. WPL is happy to have such a strong and dedicated partner in VPAS.”

To hear more about recent VPAS workshops at WPL, read the article, “VPAS launches Dementia Friends workshop series.” 

State and national organizations

We are thrilled to award the following individuals and organizations affiliated with state and national institutions with a 2023 Honorable Mention:

  • Amelia County Extension Office of Virginia Cooperative Extension
  • Birth to Five Illinois, Region 39
  • Caroline Ingram, volunteer with North Carolina State Extension Master Gardener Program
  • DeLand Garden Club & the University of Florida IFAS Master Gardener Program
  • Excel By 5, State-wide Non-Profit in Mississippi
  • Jacalenne (Jax) Christian of the Michigan State University Extension
  • Melissa Pebly, Pam Graves, Crystal Loman, and Mayra Gonzalez of Portland State University
  • United Way of North Central Ohio

Amelia County Extension Office of Virginia Cooperative Extension

Baylee Hughes, of the James L. Hamner Public Library, in Amelia, Virginia, writes in their nomination letter that “The Amelia County Extension Office has supported the Hamner Public Library in so many ways. The largest Summer Reading Program event in 2023 was in collaboration with an Extension Office agent – who came up with the idea. This event involved two 3-day camps featuring archery instruction, camp building, first aid, and much more for children between the ages of 9 to 14.

Also in 2023, “they collaborated in several programs at the library, including a succulent terrarium design class where an extension agent taught participants about plant health. Extension Office agents have supported the library through grant support letters, distributing library information, donating books, and just being incredible library patrons. They allow the library to use their equipment, such as their LEGO Robotics kits for a robotics program, and their large outdoor tent for programs held outside.”

“The Amelia Extension Office doesn’t just help the Hamner Public Library, but the whole community. Both the agriculture agent and the 4-H Club agent are constantly doing programming throughout the year at different events, like Amelia Day, farmer’s markets, the Saylor’s Creek Pollinator Festival. They collaborate with many other organizations to support local farmers and community groups. Everyone knows that if they call the Extension Office, they will get help.”

Birth to Five Illinois, Region 39

Stephanie Strick of the Mt. Zion District Library, Mt. Zion, IL, writes in a nomination letter that “Birth to Five Illinois Region 39 have become a huge part of our library and our ability to connect with the community. Through Birth to Five, we have been able to connect with other organizations in our community to bring information to families and children on what services, groups, and so many other things are offered within our community to help better our patrons lives.”

Some of the things done through this collaboration include:

  • “Providing a Family Guide that patrons can pick up that is full of resources for families in our county
  • Connecting us with support groups including a group for grandparents raising their grandchildren
  • Encouraging the library to join several community groups focused on the success of the children in our community
  • And more!”

Strick adds that, “Birth to Five Illinois Region 39, also stepped up and volunteered their time to help us during our Summer Reading Program. We had someone cancel the day before for a pie the staff event, and Birth to Five Illinois Region 39 stepped in with zero hesitation to participate in the new ‘Pie Birth to Five’ station. It made the event so incredibly special for our kids.”

Caroline Ingram, volunteer with North Carolina State Extension Master Gardener Program

Paula Brown, a librarian at Gaston County Public Library in North Carolina, writes in her nomination of Master Gardener Caroline Ingram: “From the first day [Ingram] started as a regular library volunteer, she has been passionate about starting a Community Seed Bank as a partnership between the Master Gardeners and Gaston County Public Library.” 

“Community seed banks are a place for low or no cost seeds that are used by community members to grow herbs, fruits, vegetables, and flowers,” Brown says. “They are useful to boost food security and to encourage people to learn about gardening.” The seed bank at GCPL opened in August 2022, partly funded by the Master Gardener Group of Gaston County. 

The Master Gardener Group of Gaston County is “an independent volunteer organization whose mission is to provide educational opportunities and community service in support of the NC Cooperative Extension programs,” through which volunteers “share expertise and evidence based information to the public in an environment of fellowship.” Ingram coordinates volunteers, teaches classes, organizes seeds, and has made flyers and a website about the different types of seeds in the bank, which vary by season. 

The nomination continues: “Our vision is accessible gardening for all in our community. Our mission is to promote access to seeds, particularly open pollinated varieties, and provide access to evidence-based gardening education to our community. To date we have filled 23,850 seed envelopes in 2023 and will have 13 monthly gardening programs from August 2022 to October 2023.” Much of this has been championed by Ingram. 

Each of the 10 GCPL locations is assigned a different Master Gardener Champion to make sure each seed bank is stocked with seeds from the main branch. Master Gardeners also have a hotline for gardening questions, and provide popular monthly classes on composting, garden planning, and other topics.

“Caroline has a vision and a mission,” Brown writes. “It is wonderful to work with a passionate partner who brings so much enthusiasm to the project and the classes. She makes this program so easy. Caroline has taught 5 of the 13 classes we have had and arranged wonderful speakers for the other classes. Our class for planning your garden with a Master Gardener had over 100 people in attendance.”

Brown summarizes the impact of Ingram’s partnership with the library: “This has been such a successful program for our county. Without Caroline’s enthusiasm, we would not have nearly the breadth of seeds and the educational experiences we have been able to provide to the community.”

For more information, read the article, “Community Seed Banks Available at Gaston Libraries.”

DeLand Garden Club & the University of Florida IFAS Master Gardener Program

J. Sandy Hutchins of DeLand Regional Library writes in a nomination letter that, “Established in August 2022, the Seed Library at the DeLand Regional Library has given out over 5,000 seed packets in less than a year. The project is a collaboration between the the Garden Club of Deland, the University of Florida IFAS Master Gardeners, and the Friends of the Library. It has proven a hit with all ages.

“A committee comprised of representatives from each group (as well as library staff) ensure that the library remains stocked and that seeds are distributed when in-season and will all the necessary info for even a novice gardener. The library is stocked with both donated seeds and seeds that have been purchased by the Friends of the DeLand Library. The Master Gardeners have taught particpants to harvest seeds in library programs, while the Garden Club members have donated countless seeds from their own gardens. The Seed Library program has exceeded expectations, providing community members with a free means to grow their own vegetables, herbs, and flowers.”

Excel By 5, a state-wide non-profit in Mississippi

Ryda Worthy of South Mississippi Regional Library Marion and Jefferson Davis counties in Mississippi writes, “Our library system has been involved with Excel by 5 in Marion County since 2017, when a interest meeting was held. As a result of our partnership with the Columbia-Marion County Excel by 5 Coalition, we have developed a Family Resource Center in our Columbia library. All of these materials are available to the public for free check out. Excel by 5 also assists us in providing a four-week Kindergarten Readiness program each summer.

Worthy said “Our partnership with Excel by 5 has been so beneficial that Jefferson Davis County, which our library system also serves, is now interested in pursuing Excel by 5 certification as well.”

As part of this collaboration in Marion County, “Our library also created a Womb Literacy program for expectant mothers that encourages them to read to their unborn child to help establish literacy routines before they are born. A large component of this program is also the distribution of information on child development and infant mortality that we receive from Excel by 5.

“One of the things Excel by 5 works very hard on is providing free training for early childhood educators. Our community coach, Cathy, introduced us to a trainer from the Mississippi Department of Human Services who now uses our library meeting room monthly to provide training to all of our local preschool and daycare instructors and directors to ensure they are up to date on all the latest childhood development and health information. Our Excel by 5 coalition participates in community events, distributing information and providing families with free developmental screenings.”

Furthermore, thanks to this collaboration, library staff have been able to participate in “conferences the State Excel by 5 organization hosts” that have provided “library staff with wonderful resources that they have put to use serving our community. Excel by 5 has helped us show our local government and business community that early childhood education and development is a workforce development component.”

Dee Hare, Director, Northeast Regional Library System, serving Alcorn, Prentiss, Tippah, and Tishomingo counties, added that “I have only been working with Excel by 5 for less than a year but have already seen how great their partnership with libraries can be. Currently, the only Resource Center is at the city elementary school, so we have plans to make a second Resource Center in the library. Our staff has also started participating in community events, such as a city-wide Back to School event being held soon. The contacts that I have made through the group have also recently led to us participating, for the first time, in the Alcorn County school district’s 3rd grade Literacy Event, where they handed out book bundles to all entering 3rd grade children who attended.”

Patsy Brewer, Director, Waynesboro-Wayne County Library, added that “We have a partnership with the Wayne County Excel by 5 and I am a member of the committee. We have an Excel by 5 Resource Center in our library with items that were purchased with library funds. Our [Excel by 5] group does book giveaways, sponsors an annual Maternity Fair, hosts an Excelebration program each year, and participates in two Wayne County Health Fairs. Two members presented one of the summer reading programs this year, we have a booth at the annual Whistle Stop Festival, and we sponsor childcare training sessions here at the library.”

John Brdecka, Director, Hancock County Library System, added “We also have a very similar relationship, like Wayne County, with our Excel by 5 in Hancock County. I am on the Coalition Committee. During the Summer Library Program, we run congruent programming with Excel by 5 [entitled] ‘Rubber Duckies.’ We also provide expectant mothers with a gift bag that has board books that fit around the pregnant belly of a woman so they can read to their unborn child while still in the womb.”

Finally, Mary Ann Griffin, Director, Sunflower County Library System, said that “I served on the Community Involvement piece and assisted the group with getting informational resources that addressed children ages 0-5. I have attended Excel by 5 conferences and was able to connect with resource people that helped enhance our programs. We were able to connect with Ms. Mississippi and she did her music is medicine program at our local K-2 grade school.”

“Here are some examples that we have done with Excel by 5 [in Sunflower County]: I have an Excel by 5 e-blast that sends out library information: weekly press release of upcoming library programs and flyers. I receive Excel by 5 information such as [the] Kindergarten Readiness Calendar, and the library branches create book displays and programs that address the various themes and topics on the calendar. Excel by 5 provided materials that we turned into learning kits and have added them to our catalog for check out. The library hosted an Excel by 5 Regional meeting where resources were shared.”

Learn more about Excel by 5, an innovative early childhood community certification process focusing on a community’s young children. It emphasizes the important roles parents and early childhood educators play in the lives of children during their most formative years – birth to age 5.

Jacalenne (Jax) Christian of the Michigan State University Extension

Karen Barbash a former Michigan State University (MSU) Extension employee writes that “Jax and I taught our first library community nutrition class in late 2015 when we were starting out as Community Nutrition Instructors in MSU Extension.” Barbash said they were “tasked with providing nutrition education to participants in Detroit.”

Barbash notes that, “That first class we taught [at the Detroit Public Library] was a big hit and solidified a partnership that continues today. Over seven years, Jax and I co-taught dozens of classes across 10+ branches of the Detroit Public Library system. We taught adult cooking classes in the early evening to better reach participants after work. We taught after school programs for kids and teens, creating healthy snacks they could replicate at home. We showed participants how to cook with simple and accessible ingredients, all without a full kitchen. Jax has continued partnering with Detroit Public Library branches to provide excellent nutrition education. She is a wonderful resource and has a wealth of knowledge on cooking, gardening, recipes, and everything in between. She is approachable, funny, and always provides a great class for participants, as well as anyone who gets to co-teach with her.”

Melissa Pebly, Pam Graves, Crystal Loman, and Mayra Gonzalez of Portland State University, Oregon

Mary Davis, Librarian at Brookwood Library, and Jovanna Sardineta-Cotero, Bilingual Youth Librarian at Shute Park Library, of Hillsboro Public Libraries, Oregon, writes in their nomination of Melissa Pebly, Pam Graves, and Crystal Loman of Portland State University (PSU) that [they] “pitched their idea to provide a way for children with disabilities to be included in literacy activities to better prepare them for kindergarten. Hillsboro Brookwood Library began hosting Inclusive Storytime twice a month.” 

In 2019, the PSU team (Pebly, Graves, Loman) gave a training on Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and its applications on a storytime program, the Oregon Early Intervention and Special Education referral process, how to adapt books for accessibility, and strategies to address varying communication needs of children. 

The PSU team worked with Jovanna to make a storytime available in English and Spanish at Shute Park Library. “The first Bilingual Inclusive Storytime debuted on January 20th, 2023, and now has a steady attendance of 11 per session.” Jovanna says “Without Melissa and her PSU team, Shute Park families would not be enjoying this beneficial and fun program.”

United Way of North Central Ohio

Children’s librarian Barbara Scott writes in her nomination, “For the past 9 years, the United Way of North Central Ohio has been the principal funder of our Music, Movement, and More program here at the Bucyrus Public Library.” 

The number one “Bold Goal” of the United Way of North Central Ohio (UWNCO) is “a community filled with successful children.” In funding the Music, Movement, and More children’s program, UWNCO has helped bring an “all-time favorite program” for the library “featuring learning, dancing, and music-making” to more than 12,000 participants over the last 6 years. 

“With funding, we were able to increase from one class per week to two classes early on and present three 10-week sessions to the community during each year,” Scott says. Funding from the United Way has helped to purchase instruments and add a drumming component to the class, even providing the opportunity for families who add at least seven of the 10 sessions to take an instrument home with them. 

“The funding has also allowed the library and myself to take the program outside of the library’s walls, visiting 5 different preschool/elementary school settings through the school year for the past 2-3 years,” Scott writes. She’s been able to purchase equipment for her program, including instruments for the preschool classes at the schools, and was able to visit summer school classes this past summer — while looking toward a future opportunity to partner with the local Salvation Army.

Scott writes in closing: “I am eternally grateful for the continued support that United Way of Crawford County gives our Music, Movement, and More program and look forward to a great partnership for many years to come.”