Rochester Public Library (copy)

Tabitha Guenther, a Rochester Public Library page, re-shelves books at the Rochester Public Library. The Rochester Public Library on Tuesday learned it had won a National Medal for Museum and Library Service.

The Rochester Public Library is one of 10 winners of the 2018 National Medal of Museum and Library Service.

The Institute of Museum and Library Services made the announcement Tuesday. 

During the past 24 years, the award has celebrated 182 institutions that are making a difference for individuals, families and communities. The award will be presented during an event at the U.S. Institute of Peace in Washington, D.C., on May 24.

“We’re incredibly honored to be recognized for our innovative approaches to removing barriers," Library Director Audrey Betcher said. “The National Medal recognizes RPL’s dedication to equity and providing welcoming spaces for all community members. We strive to listen and respond so that every member of our community has the opportunity to succeed.”

Rochester Public Library is only the fourth Minnesota library to win the award in 24 years, joining the University of Minnesota Libraries, which won last year;  Hill Museum and Manuscript Library, which received the medal in 2011; and St. Paul Public Library, which was honored in 2005.

As part of the ceremony and celebration, community member James Arnold will travel to Washington, D.C., with Betcher to accept the National Medal on behalf of the library and provide a personal account of the power the library has had in the community.

Since he was a child, 17-year-old Arnold has used the library as a safe space to develop his passion for writing. As an eighth-grader, he joined the Teen Library Council and had a hand in planning programs for his peers, as well as for younger children. And when Arnold first identified as transgender, the library provided him a safe space to explore his identity.

“The best thing about the library is its commitment to serving the entire community, even if it’s part of the community that typically doesn’t have a voice. And I think that is a very beautiful thing,” Arnold said.

Following the ceremony, StoryCorps — a national nonprofit dedicated to recording, preserving, and sharing the stories of Americans — will visit Rochester Public Library and provide an opportunity for Rochester community members to share stories of how the library has affected their lives. These stories are preserved at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.

“It’s exciting to know that the stories of our community members are being preserved as part of this award,” Betcher said.

For a complete list of 2018 recipients and to learn more about the National Medal winners, visit the museum's website.

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