Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Institute of Museum and Library Services’ National Medal Recognizes BPL’s Service to the Community at White House Ceremony

Brooklyn, NY—Brooklyn Public Library received the nation’s highest honor for museums and libraries in a ceremony at the White House today. For 22 years, the National Medal has celebrated institutions that respond to societal needs in innovative ways, making a difference for individuals, families and communities. 

The Library was recognized in part for the work of its Outreach Services Department, which offers citizenship classes for new Americans, creative aging workshops for older adults, an oral history project for veterans and the Books-to-Go program for homebound library patrons.

“Our receipt of the National Medal is a tribute to the hundreds of librarians, staff members and volunteers who make Brooklyn Public Library a resource the entire community can turn to, a place where all people can be inspired to pursue their dreams and do their best thinking,” said Linda E. Johnson, president and CEO of Brooklyn Public Library. “We are dedicated to serving a large, diverse borough, including children discovering the joys of literacy, students visiting our branches after school, families on the wrong side of the digital divide, immigrants eager to become United States citizens and the innovators who have remade Brooklyn’s image and economy. And as ever, we provide free access to millions of books housing nearly all of humanity’s accumulated wisdom and experience.”

Brooklyn Public Library patron Kim Best joined Johnson at the awards ceremony in Washington. Born in Guyana, Best had lived in the United States for decades and was the mother of a nine-year-old son when she learned that she was not, as she had always believed, an American citizen.

“My entire life was turned upside down when I discovered that because my mother was naturalized after I turned eighteen, I was not a citizen of the country I loved and had lived in nearly all my life,” Ms. Best said. “At first I didn’t know where to turn, but with the help of the citizenship preparation classes at Brooklyn Public Library’s Central Library, I became a naturalized citizen last May. The day I signed my N400 was one of the best days of my life.

“I would recommend the classes to anyone who wants to become a citizen,” Best added. “They changed my life.”

The Institute of Museum and Library Services noted that the 2016 National Medal winners “demonstrate impactful programs and services that exceed the expected levels of community outreach.” In addition to Brooklyn Public Library, the winners include Madison Public Library (Wisconsin), North Carolina State University Libraries, Otis Library (Norwich, Connecticut), Santa Ana Public Library, the Chicago History Museum, the Columbia Museum of Art (South Carolina), Lynn Meadows Discovery Center for Children (Gulfport, Mississippi), the Mid-America Science Museum (Hot Springs, Arkansas) and Tomaquag Museum (Exeter, Rhode Island).

“This year’s National Medal recipients show the transforming role of museums and libraries from educational destinations to full-fledged community partners and anchors,” said Dr. Kathryn K. Matthew, director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services. “We are proud to recognize the extraordinary institutions that play an essential role in reaching underserved populations and catalyzing new opportunities for active local involvement.”

IMLS received letters of support for Brooklyn Public Library from U.S. Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand.

“Libraries like Brooklyn Public Library are vital to our democratic society because they provide citizens with access to literature, computers and other educational resources,” said U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer. “I am thrilled that the Institute of Museum and Library Services has recognized the tremendous impact that Brooklyn Public Library has had on diverse communities throughout the borough by awarding it with the 2016 National Medal for Museum and Library Service. Congratulations to Brooklyn Public Library on this outstanding accomplishment and I look forward to seeing its future successes in my home borough of Brooklyn!”

"I am delighted that the IMLS has recognized the Brooklyn Public Library for this honor," said U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. "Brooklyn Public Library is an essential resource for its community -- a place where Brooklynites connect, a center of lifelong learning and a gateway to the many pleasures of literature. I know all New Yorkers join me in congratulating BPL for this accomplishment."

The senators also recently supported the Bklyn Incubator, a BPL program partially funded by a $25,000 IMLS Sparks Ignition grant. The Incubator invests in creative programming ideas developed by Brooklyn librarians.

For a complete list of 2016 recipients and to learn more about the National Medal winners, please visit

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About Brooklyn Public Library

Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) is an independent library system for the 2.5 million residents of Brooklyn. It is the fifth largest library system in the United States with 60 neighborhood libraries located throughout the borough. BPL offers free programs and services for all ages and stages of life, including a large selection of books in more than 30 languages, author talks, literacy programs and public computers. BPL’s eResources, such as eBooks and eVideos, catalog information and free homework help, are available to customers of all ages 24 hours a day at our website:

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 35,000 museums. Our mission is to inspire libraries and museums to advance innovation, lifelong learning, and cultural and civic engagement. Our grant making, policy development, and research help libraries and museums deliver valuable services that make it possible for communities and individuals to thrive. To learn more, visit and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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