Do you feel that Columbus Public Library is a special place? If you do, you are not alone.

Columbus Public Library was named one of two finalists for the Library Journal’s contest for the Best Small Library in America.

“This is an exciting and humbling recognition for our library and community,” said Cindy Fesemyer, library director. “Columbus Public Library strives every day to make a difference for local residents, and this award is a much-appreciated recognition of that hard work.”

Library Journal‘s annual award for the Best Small Library in America, was founded 11 years ago to encourage and showcase the work of smaller libraries across the country. The award honors the public library that most profoundly demonstrates outstanding service to populations of 25,000 or less.

The winning library, Idaho’s Bounty County Library District, will receive a $5,000 cash award, a feature story in today’s issue of Library Journal, and online coverage. Columbus Public Library, as one of two finalist libraries, along with Pottsboro Area Library of Texas, will be awarded $1,000 worth of products and services, and special mention in Library Journal.

In 2014, the library received an American Library Association grant called Libraries Transforming Communities, Fesemyer said.

“Through it five of us were trained to conduct community conversations and use other tools to learn what citizens what for their community,” Fesemyer said. “This was the basis for all of our community-based work.”

In the nomination materials, Columbus was asked to explain how, in the last two years, they raised the profile of the library in the community, reached out to new users and remote users, impacted literacy in the community, and used technology to support and grow patron access to materials and information, Fesemyer said. The application highlighted the ways the library is helping residents feel more connected to their community:

  • Root for Columbus Action Potlucks connect adults with each other by encouraging citizens to make small, visible changes in the community, with the library acting as a bridge to resources like partnerships, small sums of money, or research into other community’s civic engagement efforts.
  • School-age children connect outside of school at the library’s weekly After School Clubs, which now include a Pokémon Club, LEGO Club, Inklings Teen/Tween Writing Club and Crafternoon.
  • The library supports the Columbus area business community by partnering with the Chamber of Commerce and Columbus Downtown Development Corporation. Downtown Story Walks are now a regular part of the holidays in Columbus.
  • As the city of Columbus gears up for strategic planning, the library is participating in early discussions, ready to help when needed.

“All of these offerings resulted from the 12 community conversations held in the Columbus area in 2015,” Fesemyer said. “By simply asking people what they want for their community, the Columbus Public Library has stretched the mission and scope of its work by, for and with the community it serves.”

Columbus Library’s nomination was evaluated on the following key factors:

  • Innovation in developing services and programs that can be replicated by other libraries, including outreach to underserved populations
  • Success in educating patrons in computer use and other new technologies, expanding the reach of library services via technology, and measuring the outcomes of technology usage
  • Creativity in addressing literacy (or multiple literacies, such as digital literacy, information literacy, etc.) across patrons of all ages, including programs focused on early literacy and school readiness
  • Demonstrated community support
  • Sustained cooperation and partnership with other libraries, schools, other agencies, and businesses.
  • Increase in library use, particularly by new users
  • Evidence of library’s role as community center

“In 2018 we will engage in city-wide planning again,” Fesemyer said. “Hopefully it will benefit city administration in addition to informing the library’s 2018 strategic plan.”