Multnomah County Library receives nation's highest award for community service

PORTLAND, OR – Multnomah County Library has been named one of 10 recipients of the 2009 National Medal for Museum and Library Service, the nation's highest honor for museums and libraries. The annual award, made by the Institute of Museum and Library Services since 1994, recognizes institutions for outstanding social, educational, environmental or economic contributions to their communities. Multnomah County Library will receive the National Medal at a ceremony held later in Washington, D.C., and a $10,000 award in recognition of its extraordinary contributions.

"This is an incredible honor," said Vailey Oehlke, Multnomah County's director of libraries. "Multnomah County Library has been a vital part of the community since 1864 and has earned ongoing public support by providing innovative services and programs designed to improve and transform the lives of the county's nearly 718,000 residents. This award is a tribute to our staff, committed stakeholders and volunteers for their steadfast service to the community we serve."

"Every day, the Multnomah County Library makes a real difference in their community," said IMLS Director Anne-Imelda M. Radice. "Their exemplary programs respond to community challenges, positively impact people's lives, and serve as models for the nation's libraries. I applaud their outstanding efforts and encourage others to follow in their footsteps."

U.S. Representative David Wu (OR-01) commented, "The Multnomah County Library's service to our diverse community consistently enlivens and enriches the lives of Oregonians. With reports showing that Multnomah County Library has the highest per capita circulation of any large library, it is clear that Oregonians love books, reading, and their local library."

U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley (OR) said, "This national recognition is not only an honor for the Multnomah County Library, but an honor for the State of Oregon. Oregonians have established a tradition of being informed, active citizens, and our local libraries play a key role in continuing this civic engagement. By demonstrating a deep commitment to empowering children, assisting those with diverse backgrounds, and providing exceptional community outreach, the Multnomah County Library has set itself apart as an example for institutions around the country."

Each day more than 13,000 people visit the library, library staff answer more than 2,100 inquiries, and patrons check out or renew 57,000 books and other materials. Library computers are in use nearly 90 percent of the time, providing access to information and technology for many people who may have no other option.

In response to changing demographics, Multnomah County Library has established programs, services and outreach to Spanish, Russian, Vietnamese and Chinese speakers and increased the collection of books and materials in these languages. The library has also increased the diversity of its staff to better reflect and serve the community.

Multnomah County Library is also a leader in the area of early childhood services, offering programs such as Raising A Reader®, which provides literacy services to more than 30,000 children from at-risk families each year. The library has provided parent and caregiver education and training through partnerships with organizations such as Head Start and Steps to Success and has provided leadership for early education initiatives statewide.

There are nine other recipients of the 2009 National Medal for Museum and Library Service:

  • Braille Institute of America Library, Los Angeles, CA
  • Children's Museum of Pittsburgh, PA
  • Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal, Cincinnati, OH
  • Gail Borden Public Library, Elgin, IL
  • Indianapolis Museum of Art, IN
  • Museum of Science & Industry in Tampa, FL
  • Pritzker Military Library, Chicago, IL
  • Stark County District Library, Canton, OH
  • Tennessee Aquarium, Chattanooga, TN

Any individual may nominate a museum and/or library in the United States and its territories for the National Medal for Museum and Library Service. Members of the National Museum and Library Services Board, the institute's presidentially appointed policy advisory board, review the nominations and make recommendations to the Institute Director, who selects the winners. To view nomination information, please go to www.imls.gov/medals. The deadline for 2010 nominations is February 16, 2010.

About the Institute of Museum and Library Services

The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation's 123,000 libraries and 17,500 museums. The institute's mission is to create strong libraries and museums that connect people to information and ideas. The institute works at the national level and in coordination with state and local organizations to sustain heritage, culture, and knowledge; enhance learning and innovation; and support professional development. To learn more about the institute, please visit www.imls.gov.