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IMLS announces Memphis Public Libraries as recipient of National Medal for Museum and Library Service

IMLS announces Memphis Public Libraries as recipient of National Medal for Museum and Library Service

By Mayor Jim Strickland

Libraries can be the lifeblood of our neighborhoods. For so many, they’re a place to learn, a place to visit with friends, and a place to stay connected to the world around them.

Earlier this week, the Institute of Museum and Library Services announced Memphis Public Libraries (MPL) as one of three recipients of the 2021 National Medal for Museum and Library Service.

This is the nation’s highest honor given to museums and libraries that make significant and exceptional contributions to their communities. Over the past 27 years, the award has celebrated institutions that are making a difference for individuals, families, and communities. MPL is the first-ever two-time recipient (2007 and 2021).

“We are thrilled and humbled to receive this prestigious medal from the IMLS. Our team strives to meet the ever-evolving community needs, and this has never been more evident than the last year,” says Library Director Keenon McCloy. “During the pandemic, Memphis Public Libraries’ dedicated and innovative staff have continuously modified services and gone above and beyond to support our customers and community. All the recognition for this honor goes to our incredible staff, volunteers, and support organizations, including the Board of Trustees, Memphis Library Foundation, and the Friends of the Library. Additionally, we’d like to also thank the Mayor, City Council, and administration for their ongoing support.”

“It is an honor and pleasure to honor these six recipients of the 2021 National Medal of Museum and Library Service,” said IMLS Director Crosby Kemper. “Through their programs, services, and community relationships, these institutions exemplify the ongoing excellence of our nations’ museums and libraries across the country, as well as their extraordinary efforts this past year to serve, heal, and bring us together. We look forward to celebrating them, as well as paying tribute to the hardworking staff at all American museums and libraries this summer.”

Now, this is a tremendous honor, and I want to point out this didn’t just happen overnight. This award is the culmination of diligent and hard work by our MPL team over the last five and half years.

When I took office in 2016, neighborhood libraries were closed on Fridays, programs were underutilized, and they simply were not able to deliver the service our citizens deserve.

Fast-forward to where we are today—

  • Program attendance increased 103.6% FY16 to FY19
  • Through Feb 2020, attendance was up 12.43% compared to same period in FY19 (Jul-Feb 2020 compared to Jul-Feb 2019)
  • Number of programs offered increased 114.58% FY19 compared to FY16
  • The number of children attending a library program increased by 93.67% FY16 to FY19
  • The number of teens attending a library program increased by 175.86% FY16 to FY19
  • A new Raleigh Library
  • A new Frayser Library (completion in early 2023)
  • A complete renovation of the Downtown Library is underway

While the past year has been very different, MPL employees have continuously adapted to meet community needs and fill critical gaps in services. From collaborating with the Memphis Shelby County Joint COVID-19 task force to produce health and safety content through its in-house television station (WYPL) to creating protocols for curbside pick-up and facility safety, delivering meals to vulnerable residents through MIFA, conducting contact tracing with the Shelby County Health Department, and producing a robust continuum of digital programming—MPL continued to deliver much needed services in ways never thought possible.

Below is a snapshot of the last year’s activities.