Shaler North Hills Library recognized for service
By Bethany Hofstetter
Published: Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012, 8:54 p.m.
The Shaler North Hills Library staff is dedicated to living out its motto “Books … And so much more,” and it is the “so much more” that has earned the library national recognition.
The Institute of Museum and Library Services awarded the Shaler Township library with the 2012 National Medal for Museum and Library Service yesterday, Nov. 14, in Washington D.C., for its services to the community.
The National Medal for Museum and Library Service is the highest honor given to libraries and museums. Shaler North Hills Library is one of 10 recipients from across the nation of this year's award.
“We are very proud to include Shaler North Hills Library among this year's National Medal for Museum and Library Service winners,” said Susan Hildreth, director, Institute of Museum and Library Services.
“Shaler North Hills Library has a proactive approach to providing community service.
Members of the library staff are just as likely to be out in the community working as they are to be within the library building. When they see a need ... they try to find a solution.”
Over the years, Shaler North Hills Library staff has worked to transform the building from a place to borrow books to the “central hub of the community,” said Sharon McRae, library director.
“We're not quiet at all,” said McRae with a laugh. “You see a place that's doing well and thriving.”
Patrons of all ages stream in and out of its doors for interactive story times, computer classes, art programs or a good book.
Last year, more than 50,500 people attended library programs throughout the year, and to date, program attendance has increased by 10 percent this year.
“This is why it's so special,” McRae said of the award. “The community has responded so much to what we do; it's really a community award.”
About four years ago, the library staff saw the circulation and attendance numbers leveling and made a conscious effort to get out into the community to see what resources and programs were needed and wanted.
The library added a community outreach position and worked to get programs and services to people in the community.
Today, the library offers everything from art education programs for children to game nights for teens and Tai Chi classes for adults and everything in between.
It is a designated Family Place Library dedicated to early literacy programming, and staff takes its anti-bullying puppet show to community groups, provides reading programs for preschools and day care centers and delivers material collections to senior citizen sites.
“I'm proud of our logo ‘Books … And so much more,'” McRae said. “I think we're living up to that. It's not just lip-service.”
Sandra Devonshire, of Shaler, said she views the library as her “second home.” She had worked at the circulation desk in the past, and today she brings her grandchildren to the library programs.
So, when she saw information at the Library of Congress National Book Festival on the award, she picked up a nomination application.
“When I looked at the criteria, I thought Shaler North Hills Library certainly fits the profile of a great library,” Devonshire said. “They work hard, and they're a lovely group of people, and their contributions to the community certainly deserve to be rewarded.”
In 2010, the library lost $85,000 in state and county funding, however; the library staff has learned to do more with less by focusing on the needs of the community.
“What makes me proud is we did step up and not back,” McRae said. “It would have been really easy to cut back … but as a staff we really thought differently.”
McRae said in addition to the library patrons, the library board, township officials and library volunteers are at the heart of the library's success. The library staff hopes to celebrate with the community that made the award possible on Saturday, Nov. 17, at the township's Holiday “Lite” Up Night celebration during which the library will be open and have a number of related activities available for community members.
“This is a very hard working staff. They are very dedicated to serving this community, but it's a community award,” she said. “They built this library … it's a success because of their commitment.”
Bethany Hofstetter is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6364 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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