CHICAGO — The Skokie Public Library (Skokie, Illinois) has been named the 2016 winner of the ALA Excellence in Library Programming Award for its 2015 program series “Voices of Race.” The award, supported by ALA’s Cultural Communities Fund, recognizes a library that demonstrates excellence by providing programs that have community impact and respond to community needs.
The Skokie Public Library and its partners created Voices of Race the latest entry in Skokie’s annual “Coming Together” series, which highlights the incredibly diverse ethnic and racial community in the Skokie and Niles Townships. Voices of Race featured over 70 events anchored by a traveling exhibit entitled “Race: Are We So Different?,” hosted by the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center.
Residents of Skokie speak over 90 languages and its population is over 40 percent is foreign born. Each year the Coming Together series focuses on a particular different ethnic or racial group. Past years' programs have featured Skokie’s Indian, Assyrian, Greek, Korean and Filipino communities. The 2015 program's focus was on race and how it shapes the experience of individuals, some of whom claim ancestry from more than one race, as well as our perceptions and our social interactions. The planning process for Voices of Race included Skokie Public Library, Niles Township High School District 219, Oakton Community College, community leaders, several elementary school districts and neighboring libraries. Programming included a kick-off ceremony that featured powerful spoken-word poetry from local youth, an intergenerational play written and performed by the community and a Stand Against Racism event hosted by the YWCA to end the series
For Voices of Race Skokie Public Library hosted several compelling programs for patrons of all ages that included theatrical performances, lectures, book discussions and more. We also centered our annual Winter Reading Program on Coming Together that provided an incentive for patrons to participate in Voices of Race activities by reading the featured texts, attending events and participating in our patron-curated exhibit.
Over 8,000 people from Skokie and the surrounding area attended programs in the Voices of Race series, with over 60% of the attendees indicating that this was the first time they took part in the Coming Together series. One attendee stated that “I was very touched to see so much community support and participation by so many different community groups,” and 74 percent of respondents indicated that the event they attended inspired them to take action and/or make a change.
The ALA Excellence in Library Program Award, consisting of $5,000 and a citation of achievement, will be presented to the Skokie Public Library at the ALA Annual Conference in Orlando, FL in June.
Members of the 2015-2016 ALA Excellence in Library Programming Award committee are: Chair John Sandstrom, New Mexico State University, New Mexico; Heather Moorefield-Lang, University of South Carolina, South Carolina; Heidi M. Blackburn, University of Nebraska Omaha, Nebraska; and Joseph M. Eagan, Montgomery County Public Libraries, Maryland (retired).