NEWS

City's library system earns national honors

By DANIEL A. KITTREDGE
Posted 10/28/20

By DANIEL KITTREDGE The city's public library system has received national recognition for its role as a "e;vital community asset."e; The Gerald M. Kline Family Foundation and Library Journal recently announced the Cranston Public Library is the winner of

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NEWS

City's library system earns national honors

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The city’s public library system has received national recognition for its role as a “vital community asset.”

The Gerald M. Kline Family Foundation and Library Journal recently announced the Cranston Public Library is the winner of the second annual Jerry Kline Community Impact Prize, which carries a $250,000 financial award and a feature in Library Journal’s November 2020 edition.

Ed Garcia, director of the Cranston Public Library, said Monday the hope is to place the financial award into an investment account through the nonprofit Cranston Public Library Association “almost to create an endowment so that we always have money to do innovative programs and ideas.” That plan still needs to be finalized with the CPLA and the library’s Board of Trustees.

“We are honored to be selected for the Jerry Kline Community Impact Prize,” Garcia said in a statement. “I am so proud of the hard work and dedication of our amazing team at the Cranston Public Library and everything we have done to reach out to our community. I am especially proud of how our team came together to safely reopen our libraries and serve our community over the past four months.”

“I’m very excited that the Cranston Public Library has won the prestigious Jerry Kline national community impact award,” Mayor Allan Fung said in the statement. “Our CPL has been a wonderful resource for our ever changing and growing population. They’re innovating to meet the needs of the people they serve daily. I can’t thank the Kline Foundation enough for recognizing the hard work and innovation that our director, board and staff have been doing to help make us one of the best library systems in the country.”

“We are ecstatic to award the Cranston Public Library with the prize,” Gerald “Jerry” Kline said in the statement. “The library’s close working relationships with civic government, community organizations, and residents have made it integral to the city’s social fabric. They clearly represent what this prize seeks to recognize.”

On Monday, Garcia said Fung nominated the library for the award. The application process, he said, took roughly a month with assistance from the city’s grant writer, Lisa Kirshenbaum.

“Especially during the pandemic, I am so proud of the work of our amazing team here,” Garcia said, adding: “I always feel like my job is to make sure we have the funding and resources we need so our team and staff can do their amazing work with the public … I’m beyond honored to be able to lead the team here.”

Garcia also praised Fung, calling the award “another testament to his leadership.”

“He’s just built such a collaborative leadership style among all the departments in the city,” he added, specifically citing the schools, senior center and Police Department as entities with which the library enjoys “amazing” partnerships.

Kline, a businessman, is the founder of California-based Innovative Interfaces and SkyRiver Technology Solutions. His family’s foundation partnered with Library Journal to create the Community Impact Prize as a means of recognizing public library systems across the country for their contributions to local communities.

The first prize, in 2019, was awarded to the Sacramento Public Library in California. This year’s award included several honorable mentions, including libraries in Arkansas, Georgia and South Carolina.

A press release from Library Journal points to the Cranston Public Library’s role in the formation of the OneCranston organization as key in its being selected for this year’s award.

“To serve a rapidly transforming community, with booming immigration and increasing economic disparity, Cranston Public Library helped convene a broad-based coalition of public, private, faith-based, and nonprofit organizations and community members to push for equity and social cohesion,” the release reads. “The resulting group, OneCranston, addresses opportunity gaps, access to employment and post-secondary education, and systemic barriers.”

In continues: “And that’s just the beginning of the library’s deep and reciprocal civic engagement. Adult education and workforce assistance, health and opioid response, citizenship prep, and more are an integral part of the library’s strategic plan. The Library brought racial equity training, not only for its own staff, but for all city leadership, and has initiatives in progress to diversify its workforce and governing board.”

The release also points to how Cranston’s library system adapted to the challenges of the pandemic.

“The library supported the community through the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, pivoting to offer more than 200 virtual programs between March and June even as the buildings were closed for staff and patron safety, as well as offering tech help for students in distance learning and 3-D printing face shields for COVID testing center and senior facilities,” the release reads. “In June, the library reopened with capacity restrictions, using safety plans developed by employees and administration together.”

“Library Director Ed Garcia leads this team from a place of extraordinary trust, giving staff the freedom to explore and experiment with new service models, new programs, and new initiatives,” Julie Holden, assistant director of Cranston’s library and president of the Rhode Island Library Association, said in a statement. “Our staff is committed to customer service, and we follow his model of saying yes more than we say no.”

Judges for this year’s Jerry Kline Community Impact Prize included Deborah Jacobs, former director of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Global Libraries initiative, former Seattle city librarian and Library Journal’s 1994 Librarian of the Year; Marc A. Ott, executive director of the International City/County Management Association; and Rivkah Sass, director of Sacramento Public Library.

More information is available at www.libraryjournal.com/communityimpact.

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