The Urban Libraries Council (U.L.C.) recognized twenty-two libraries this week for their innovative programs, services and operating practices – from a Wi-Fi bicycle that delivers resources to underserved communities to a platform for distributing self-published e-books, to heroic efforts to meet community needs in the wake of natural disasters.
The 2014 Top Innovators and Honorable Mentions, announced during the 2014 NEXT Library Conference in Chicago, were chosen by a panel of expert judges who considered more than 180 submissions in ten categories of library service and operations. In addition, ULC honors two libraries for their response to community crises – a series of tornadoes and a historic flood.
“Library innovations – and the sharing of their successes – generate new ideas, creativity, and leadership for all public libraries,” said U.L.C. President and C.E.O. Susan Benton. “From connecting job seekers and employers to educating communities about healthcare, public libraries are an essential community resource.”
The 2014 Top Innovators and Honorable Mentions in the 10 categories are:
Category: Leading Learning
Top Innovator: Grand Rapids Public Library (MI) DigiBridge is a joint effort of Grand Rapids Public Library and the Grand Rapids Public Schools to put technology in the hands of middle and high school students to help them become 21st century learners.
Honorable Mention: Palo Alto City Library (CA) makeX: Teen Mobile Makerspace
Category: Civic and Community Engagement:
Top Innovator: Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library (KS) Librarians Facilitate Community Change is becoming the go-to resource for helping groups of smart people achieve great things together for the community. After completing an Effective Facilitator/Masterful Meetings training program, librarians and management staff have the skills needed to serve as conveners for community conversations and as trusted resources for reconciling diverse perspectives and helping groups reach consensus.
Honorable Mention: Wichita Public Library (KS) Activate Wichita
Top Innovator: Santa Clara County Library District (CA) SCCLD-JukePop Launch Self-Publishing is a unique public library-Silicon Valley partnership that has provided an easy-to-use platform for bringing self-published fiction to library users in an eBook format.
Honorable Mention: Pikes Peak Library District (CO) Waldo Canyon Fire Digital Collection
Category: Customer Experience
Top Innovator: Denver Public Library (CO) DPL Connect: A Pedal-Powered Bookmobile, a fully equipped book bike with shelves, display areas, and a Wi-Fi hotspot, has successfully imbedded the Denver Public Library throughout the community in a nimble, dynamic, and unexpected way. The book bike is part of a comprehensive effort to make the library more accessible by bringing services, products, and staff outside traditional branch locations.
Honorable Mention: Edmonton Public Library (AB) Great StuffEPL Makes It Personal!
Category: Economic and Workforce Development
Top Innovator: Memphis Public Library (TN) JobLINC: Mobile Bus for Job Seekers and Employers is meeting the challenge of an unemployment rate lingering above 10 percent. The Memphis Public Library launched the JobLINC mobile career center to provide a one-stop resource for job seekers in close-to-home locations -community centers, library branches, community agencies, grocery stores, malls, and other public areas.
Honorable Mention: King County Library System (WA) Building a Workforce that Reflects Our Community
Category: Health, Wellness, and Public Safety
Top Innovator: Houston Public Library (TX) Healthy L.I.F.E. is the Houston Public Library’s (HPL) health-based literacy initiative designed to empower and equip families with information, resources, and tools needed for healthy living.
Honorable Mention: Pima County Public Library (AZ) Santa Rosa Snacks
Top Innovator: Aurora Public Library (CO) Library in a Big Box meets the growing demand for public computing. The Aurora Public Library looked outside-the-box and moved into a big box with a library-operated computer center inside a Kmart store in one of the city’s most diverse and economically challenged areas.
Honorable Mention: Cuyahoga County Public Library (OH) MOVE TEAM!
Category: Organizational Change and Strategic Management
Top Innovator: Skokie Public Library (IL) Realigning for Greater Access, Learning, and Community better aligns staff to meet the needs of the Skokie, IL community it serves. Skokie Public Library carried out a major organizational realignment based on a new strategic plan leading to creation of three new departments –Access Services, Learning Experiences, and Community Engagement — paralleling the library’s core values.
Honorable Mention: Charlotte Mecklenburg Library (NC) WorkSmart for Process Improvement and Innovation
Category: Positioning the Library
Top Innovator: Durham County Library (NC) First Library in Space effort takes the library’s S.T.E.M. (science, technology, engineering, and math) programming for teens to new heights by building and launching a capsule filled with library memorabilia into near space.
Honorable Mention: Springfield City Library (MA) Imagine: A Peace-Full City
Top Innovator: Salt Lake County Library Services (UT) Sustainability Initiative addresses the burden of rising annual utility costs, Salt Lake County Library Services began a comprehensive sustainability initiative to cut energy consumption in its 18 library buildings, save taxpayer resources, raise public awareness of the importance of energy conservation, and engage library staff in creating a culture of sustainability.
Honorable Mention: Milwaukee Public Library (WI) Better Building Challenge Showcase Facility
The U.L.C. is also honoring two libraries for their leadership in helping communities respond to crises.
Pioneer Library System (OK) Virtual Response -May 2013 Oklahoma Tornadoes established the library as a vital resource for both immediate response and longer-term recovery from natural disasters. When tornadoes tore through three county service areas over several days in May 2013, the library instituted on-the-fly changes to its virtual platform to keep vital communication channels open.
Calgary Public Library (AB) Come Hell or High Water provided vulnerable, marginalized, and homeless individuals with vital services when the city experienced the worst flooding in Canada’s history in June 2013.
“A big congratulations to the 2014 Top Innovators and to all libraries that submitted for this year’s Innovations Awards,” said Ms. Benton. “Each library’s submission illustrates the ongoing transformation of public libraries to meet the 21st century needs of people and communities.”