The Howard County Library System was chosen as the 2013 Library of the Year by Library Journal and Gale, a subsidiary of Cengage Learning.
The award goes to one of the 21,000 public and academic libraries in the United States, Canada and Mexico. It is given to the library that "most profoundly demonstrates creativity, leadership and innovation in developing signature events and initiatives" according to a Cengage press release.
The publisher of Library Journal, Ian Singer, said that with "a strong foucs on education for all, HCLS has truly become a staple in local residents' lives and for that we're excited to present them with the 2013 Library of the Year Award."
The library system has established itself in the fabric of the community, with 90 percent of residents having a library card. In the past decade, items borrowed from the library have doubled to 7.1 million and physical visits to the library have tripled to 3 million, according to statistics provided by Cengage.
Stand out programs recognized by the organizers of the award include providing every student with a library card; developing the Escape from Detention! app; working on an enchanted garden that showcases a rain garden and composting; as well as HCLS Project Literacy—an initiative that taught basic English to 6,500 adults.
"We express our deepest gratitude to Gale and Library Journal for this esteemed award," said Valerie J. Gross, president and CEO of HCLS, in a statement. "Above all, the credit goes to our extraordinary staff members... and the visionary HCLS Board of Trustees."
The Howard County Library System will be featured in a cover story in the June 15 issue of Library Journal. The article can also be found on Library Journal's website.
The article expands on programs like the now ubiquitous "Choose Civility" campaign, the president's move to make education the focus of the libraries, and making customer service a hallmark of the library experience.
"Positioning HCLS as a core, integrated institution in Howard County education has not only solidified and strengthened the place of HCLS in the county, it has made it a permanently crucial county institution," wrote the article's author, John N. Berry III.
HCLS is a network of libraries located throughout the county. The newest addition to the library system was the $29 million Miller Branch in Ellicott City, which opened in December of 2011 and features a collection of more than 242,000 items.
The 2013 Library of the Year Award will be presented at the American Library Association Annual Conference in Chicago on June 30.