Belgrade Community Library has been named the 2015 Best Small Library in America by Library Journal. This annual award, cosponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, was created in 2005 to showcase the exemplary work of public libraries serving populations under 25,000. BCL, which serves a population of 12,700, was chosen for its determination to surpass its resource challenges with partnerships to offer the service needed by its rapidly growing community.
“The success of the library comes from the people who believe in that library,” says BCL director Gale Bacon. “They give their time, they give their skills, they give their talent.” In addition to creating vibrant services to meet the contributions of the engaged local community, BCL partnered with the state and other local libraries on innovations such as courier delivery to get materials where they’re needed; with the local university to offer free lifelong learning opportunities for adults, with a variety of organizations to support military families, and many more.
Over 90 percent of the new materials purchased by the library are funded from donations, proceeds from foundation events, or from grant-writing efforts. BCL circulated 90,548 items last year to its 12,700 residents, about 1,588 of whom visit BCL each week during the 44 hours over the six days that it is open. Another 1,024 individuals visit BCL online each week. All this is done with a staff of six, two of whom are professional librarians.
“What might seem like limitations to others seems to inspire the Belgrade team to try new things, make new partnerships, redefine services, and always keep community needs front of mind,” said Rebecca T. Miller, editorial director of Library Journal and School Library Journal. “And that community extends to libraries across the state, which have benefited from the Belgrade’s leadership, and now the nation’s libraries. There’s much to be learned from Belgrade, and we are very proud to give them this award.”
Though this is BCL’s first turn on the national stage, it is not the first time the library’s extraordinary efforts have been honored. BCL was named the Montana Library Association’s Library of the Year in 2011, and awarded the Excellent Library Services Award by the Montana State Library in 2014.
Two finalists will also receive prizes. LJ proudly named California’s Mill Valley Public Library and New York’s Red Hook Public Library as the finalists for the 2015 Best Small Library in America. Both libraries feature the programs, tech savvy, and commitment to the community that signify the Best Small Library in America.
Belgrade Community Library will receive a $20,000 cash award to support its services and outreach to the community. The two finalist libraries will each receive a $10,000 cash award. The winner and finalists will also receive conference costs for two library representatives to attend the 2016 Public Library Association conference in and recognition at an award celebration.
See more information about the winner and finalists in the cover story in the February 1, 2015 issue of Library Journal and online at http://lj.libraryjournal.com/2015/01/awards/the-loaves-and-fishes-library-best-small-library-in-america-2015/.
About Library Journal
Founded in 1876, Library Journal is one of the oldest and most respected publications covering the library field. Over 75,000 library directors, administrators, and staff in public, academic, and special libraries read LJ. Library Journal reviews over 8,000 books, audiobooks, videos, databases, and web sites annually, and provides coverage of technology, management, policy, and other professional concerns. For more information, visit www.libraryjournal.com. Library Journal is a publication of Media Source Inc., which also owns School Library Journal, The Horn Book publications, and Junior Library Guild.