The Marshalltown Public Library and the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library in Cedar Rapids are two of 10 winners of this year’s National Medal for Museum and Library Service. Susan Hildreth, the director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services, says they try to honor the top facilities in the country every year.
“We really are looking for institutions that are meeting the needs of their communities. First of all, identifying what those needs are and determining how in fact how they can help their communities be more successful and how they can help their residents of have better lives,” Hildreth says. So, we’re celebrating that in both these institutions in Iowa this year.”
Hildreth says the Marshalltown Public Library had one of America’s earliest children’s rooms — and remains committed to promoting early literacy — while staff members work across the community to serve the town’s growing immigrant population. “I think Marshalltown is a small public library, but one that’s really engaged very specifically and strategically I think with it’s community,” according the Hildreth.
“There’s been a lot of community change there over the last several years, so the library is deeply engaged in working with the Hispanic community.” Hildreth says the library has continued to adapt as the community changes.
“Based on the knowledge and experience they’ve had in working with the Hispanic community, they are also eager to serve a newer population that has been recently moving into Marshalltown — immigrants from Myanmar,” Hildreth says. “So they have done a great job in serving Hispanic residents and they are using that understanding in how to engage in a new culture and address their needs to work with the Myanmar community.”
The National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library was flooded in 2008, but the museum picked up and moved the building to higher ground.
“So you know, I think they’re a fascinating story. I think the Czech and Slovak Museum really is a great example of how…museums can really make a difference,” Hildreth says.
She admits to not knowing the museum’s role in the community before the award. “I was very much aware of the floods and the impact on the public library in Cedar Rapids, and I hadn’t really understood that the museum really led the way in terms of investing in a new building, and making difference in the business neighborhood there in Cedar Rapids,” Hildreth says.
Hildreth says the museum draws tourists from all over and that has helped the area recover from the devastating impact of the flooding. The National Medal will be presented at a celebration in Washington, D.C. on May 8th. 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.
For a complete list of 2013 recipients and to learn more about the National Medal winners, visit: www.imls.gov/medals.