Watch above: The Edmonton Public Library has received a huge honour: it’s been named the 2014 Library of the Year. As Emily Mertz tells us, it’s the first time a Canadian library has won the honour.
EDMONTON – It’s the highest honour that can be bestowed upon a library, and this year, Edmonton Public Library has won it.
EPL has been named 2014 Library of the Year by Library Journal magazine and Gale Cengage Learning.
Mayor Don Iveson sat on the library board for six years while serving as city councillor. He is extremely proud of the recognition, but not surprised.
“Things were moving very, very positively – great leadership and great buy in from the staff and sustained investment from city hall and from the province. You add all of those things up and it really started to feel like EPL was becoming one of the finest libraries on the continent, and this recognition today is absolutely consistent with that.”
This is the first time a library outside of the United States has won the award.
However, it’s not the first time EPL has led the way.
In 1941, it became the first public library in North America to offer bookmobile service by using a converted streetcar. In 1979, it installed an integrated, computerized circulation system – another first in Canada. It was also the first library in Canada to hire an outreach worker, develop an iPhone app, and offer self-checkout by machines.
“They’ve really been quick to embrace technology,” said Iveson. “When they’ve automated things like checkout, that’s allowed the librarians to provide more active assistance to patrons, and also to pursue innovation.
“So we’ve got things like our Maker Space, we’ve got social workers working in libraries in order to … help individuals who need to access social services.
“The library’s really adapted to the 21st Century.”
The award celebrates the library that most profoundly demonstrates service to the community; creativity and innovation in developing specific community programs or a dramatic increase in library usage; and leadership in creating programs that can be emulated by other libraries.
“Libraries are this marvelous place where you can come and, without judgment, you can access – not just in the form of books, but increasingly online, and with new technology, and with other media – you can get the information you need in order to improve yourself and your community,” said Iveson.
In honour of its 100th birthday, it has been offering free library memberships.
In the first two months of the campaign, 60,000 people signed up, and by year’s end, there was a 40 per cent increase in memberships.
“Anyone can walk into one of our libraries and then has the opportunity in order to stimulate their creativity, to empower their knowledge and their personal development, and to connect with other people about knowledge, and innovation, and creativity.”
A $10,000 prize, international recognition, as well as a cover story on the June 15 edition of the Library Journal magazine, come along with the honour.
© Shaw Media, 2014