For immediate release | April 30, 2013

Carbondale Public Library wins 2013 ALA Excellence in Library Programming Award

CHICAGO - The Carbondale (Ill.) Public Library has been named the 2013 winner of the ALA Excellence in Library Programming Award. The award, donated by ALA’s Cultural Communities Fund, is given in recognition of a library that demonstrates excellence in library programming.

The Carbondale Public Library and its community partners created 11 Days for Compassion in response to a local Occupy movement and a strike at the university that resulted in discussions and peaceful protests, as well as abusive rants in the newspaper. The program brought together more than 35 organizations, businesses and individuals to host, lead and promote compassion-themed discussions and events for the community over an 11 day period. Major partners were the Carbondale Human Relations Commission and the Nonviolent Carbondale Group, which includes dozens of organizations and individuals. The intent was to give the community a safe symbolic way to face itself in retrospect and to learn more about compassion for future interactions. The program was partly funded through a grant from the American Library Association and the Fetzer Institute: “Building Common Ground: Discussions of Community, Civility and Compassion.”

11 Days for Compassion demonstrated community engagement from the number of partnerships to the depth of discussions. Masks were used as a symbol and a visual theme to tie events together. Inspired by a mask exhibit created by architecture students at the university, more than 700 people made masks during the 11 days. The masks were displayed at the library, partner organizations and local businesses, demonstrating the community’s growing interest in becoming more compassionate. Local artists contributed their time and expertise at the mask making workshops. The mask exhibit at the library incorporated quotes from each chapter of Karen Armstrong’s book “12 Steps to a Compassionate Life.” Book discussions in the library and throughout the community used this title.

Programs were held at the library, the Civic Center, the town square, the university, the Carbondale Boys & Girls Club and elsewhere. The Unitarian minister discussed the symbolism of the masks with the congregation, while the Chamber of Commerce sent notices about the programs to their membership. The local NPR station aired interviews, while the local paper wrote daily articles on the events. More than 4,500 people attended the programs.

The Carbondale Public Library has become a model for library and community partnerships. One respondent to their evaluation commented, “I saw the library as more of a pro-active agent in creating community connections between previously alienated groups and individuals. Although I always knew it has the potential for doing so, I had never been so closely involved in helping the library put this role into practice.” And, from another participant, “I found the mask-making surprisingly revealing. Each of the events offered significant opportunities for greater awareness and understanding.”

The annual award, consisting of $5,000 and a citation of achievement will be presented at the ALA Annual Conference in Chicago, Illinois in June.

Members of the 2013 ALA Excellence in Library Programming Award committee are: Chair Andrea R. Lapsley, Colorado State University, Colo.; Maribel Castro, Lubbock ISD ,Texas; Cathy Martyniak, University of Florida, Fla.; Catherine Murray-Rust, Georgia Tech, Ga.; Sandy Wee, San Mateo County Library, Calif.

More information about the ALA Excellence in Library Programming Award including how to submit a nominationis available on the ALA website (


JoAnne M Kempf

Director, Governance Office

Executive Office (EXEC)

1-800-545-2433 ext.3212