With a remote community numbering just 2600, the Haines Borough Public Library (HBPL) in Haines, Alaska, has been selected by Library Journal for the first annual Best Small Library in America Award. Cosponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the award was founded to encourage and showcase exemplary work of libraries serving populations under 25,000.
From nearly 150 nominations for the inaugural award, LJ editors and a panel of library leaders selected the Haines Borough Public Library for its tremendous commitment to its community, its services, programs, collections, and growth over the past five years.
Though Haines has a small population and is reachable only by ferry and plane, the HBPL boasts 67,000 visits by locals and tourists annually and welcomes 28,000 user sessions a year on its free and unfiltered public internet access – an increase in web usage of 70% over the last year. In the past year, the library’s circulation increased 27% to 112,520 which marks a massive increase of 77% over the past five years.
The library has a remarkable, ongoing partnership with the Chilkoot Indian Association (roughly 20% of residents are members of the Association or Chilkat Indian Village). Together, the HBPL and the Chilkoot Indian Association established the Dragonfly Project – a program that teaches at-risk youth the skills and patience to become technology experts for the rest of the community, enabling them to take a leadership role in the community and mentor the older, less-computer literate residents.
Haines Borough Public Library is at the center of the community of Haines. The community was integral to getting the current building, which opened in January 2003, voting for a bond to get it done and pitching in with labor and donations. That support extends to volunteering and ongoing commitment to the library through their wallets via taxes. With a small staff of five full-timers and volunteers, the Haines Borough Public Library relies on those tax dollars, book sales, fines, and donations to keep their collections, building, programs and services at the heart of the community. As Christy Tengs Fowler, a local business owner remarked “for locals, it is a sanctuary in which to retreat from a sometimes hard life, and then go back out in the world rejuvenated.”
“We created the Best Small Library in America Award to recognize the achievements of libraries in small communities with limited means but the greatest of success. The Haines Borough Public Library is a clear winner for its steady progress, commitment to community, and excellent services,” remarks John Berry III, Editor-in-Chief, Library Journal, who wrote the February 1 cover story that announces the winner.
“The Bill & Melinda Foundation is pleased to be a sponsor of this new award to recognize small libraries for the vital role they play in rural communities,” says Martha Choe, director of the foundation’s Global Libraries program. “Haines Borough Public Library is a community gem. We hope the broader community – local and state government, business, and others – will see the value of this library and will support it substantially.”
As the winner, the Haines Borough Public Library will receive a $10,000 cash award, conference costs for two library representatives to attend the next Public Library Association (PLA) meeting, a gala reception at PLA, and more.
Founded by Melvil Dewey in 1876, Library Journal is the oldest and most respected publication covering the library field and is read by over 100,000 librarians nationwide. Library Journal is an independent voice dedicated to reporting for and about the library field.
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