Innovative Public Libraries Win Awards

The Urban Libraries Council Innovations Initiative showcases programs that provide lifelong learning opportunities, meet the unique needs of diverse audiences, leverage technology to connect people with each other and vital resources, and address community issues.

ARTICLE | Feb 2, 2017

Creative and Inventive Approaches to Community Issues

Addressing citywide racial equity, helping adults earn a high school diploma, partnering with small businesses to provide training to help them succeed—these are just a few of the initiatives being led by some of most creative and innovative public libraries in North America.

In October 2016, the Urban Libraries Council (ULC), Washington, D.C., recognized these 20 public libraries as top innovators for programs, services, and operating practices that have made a significant impact on those they serve and their communities.


Workforce and Economic Development

Top Innovator: Rochester, New York, Public Library, "Reimagining Business Reference in a Mid-Sized City"
Honorable Mention: Scottsdale, Arizona, Public Library, "Eureka Loft Scottsdale"

Race and Social Equity
Top Innovator: St. Paul, Minnesota, Public Library, "Saint Paul Public Library Racial Equity Initiative"
Honorable Mention: Brooklyn, New York, Public Library, "TeleStory: Library-to-Jail Video Storytime"

Civic and Community Engagement
Top Innovator: King County, Washington, Library System, "Inspire, Engage, Connect"
Honorable Mention: Fort Vancouver, Washington, Regional Library, District "Forum @ the Library"

Health, Safety, and Sustainability
Top Innovator: San Francisco, California, Public Library, "Biblio Bistro"
Honorable Mention: Los Angeles, California, Public Library, "Los Angeles Public Library's The Source"

Organizational Change and Strategic Management
Top Innovator: Montgomery County, Maryland, Public Libraries, "The 'Library Refresh Program:' In-Time Solutions"
Honorable Mention: Kent District Library, Michigan, "Cultural Management through Efficient Staffing"            

Learning: Birth through Teens
Top Innovator: San Mateo County, California, Libraries "Talk Read Sing"
Honorable Mention: Free Library of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, "Back to School Jumpstart Camp"

Learning: Adults
Top Innovator: Queens, New York, Library, "Helping Adults Finally Achieve that High School Diploma"
Honorable Mention: Dayton, Ohio, Metro Library, "Expanding Connectivity"

Top Innovator: Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, Ohio, "We Have the Hots for You"
Honorable Mention: Multnomah County, Oregon, Library "Library's Writers Project"

Customer Experience
Top Innovator: Wichita, Kansas, Public Library, "Wichita Public Library Creates Raving Fans"
Honorable Mention: Palm Beach County, Florida, Library System, "Enriching the Visually Impaired Community"

Positioning the Library
Top Innovator: Sno-Isle Libraries, Marysville, Washington, "TEDxSnoIsle Libraries 2015"
Honorable Mention: Pierce County, Washington, Library System, "Open Lab @ RP/6: Success in Civilian Life"


Since 2010, ULC has been sharing public library programs through its Innovations Initiative. The ULC website features more than 1,200 leading practices that reflect library missions, strategies, achievements, and community contributions through the initiative.

The 2016 award winners were chosen by a panel of judges who considered nearly 270 submissions in 10 categories that supported U.S. and Canadian public library programs focused on education, digital inclusion, healthy communities, and library operations.

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