Lillian Marrero Library, Free Library of Philadelphia wins ALA's Penguin Random House Library Award for Innovation

For Immediate Release
Tue, 06/09/2020


Cheryl Malden

Program Officer


American Library Association


CHICAGO - The Lillian Marrero Library, Free Library of Philadelphia has been named the 2020 winner of ALA's Penguin Random House Library Award for Innovation. The award, supported by the Penguin Random House Foundation, recognizes U.S. libraries and librarians who create lasting innovative community service programs that successfully inspire and connect with new readers.  The award will be presented Jan. 24, at the Midwinter Meeting in Indianapolis, Indiana, preceding the ALA Presidents Program.

The Lillian Marrero Library is being honored for its extensive community-outreach programming, under the leadership of Mieka Moody, branch manager and library supervisor. A community hub in Fairhill/West Kensington for the multiple constituencies it serves, the Lilliam Marrero Library is in the most economically disadvantaged zip code of Philadelphia. Residents struggle with widespread joblessness and/or low wages, physical and mental illness, lack of access to healthy food and medical care, and a lack of stable housing.

A particularly noteworthy program involved assisting thousands of people who were displaced from Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, and sought refuge with friends and family in Fairhill. The library provided weekly Saturday FEMA drop-in hours, coordinating with FEMA, local housing non-profits, the Philadelphia Housing Authority and local volunteers. Staff also met evacuees outside of Saturday hours on a one-on-one basis to navigate complex housing and FEMA applications/appeals. They hosted a citywide collection of toiletries and money for public transit tokens for evacuees so that Saturday clinic attendees could take home wellness kits when they visited the branch.

Another outstanding initiative is the library’s wellness program, which created a wide variety of activities in an area without affordable yoga studios or gyms. Ongoing offerings such as yoga, meditation, reiki, herbal and plant medicine and gardening classes for youths and adults are all quite popular. Moody sought out experts in the community who were willing to support these programs and consistently works with local practitioners of color who instruct within the cultural experience of her patrons.

Moody coordinates with community partners to canvas, door-knock and table at local events to ensure everyone knows about the programs and services the library provides. Some of these additional programs include providing political education programs customized for the neighborhood and establishing a spoken word program for teens. Overall, the award jury was impressed by Moody’s multi-faceted approach to community programming and her sustained success within a large public library system.

The annual award consists of $10,000 and a citation of achievement.

The Penguin Random House Foundation has also generously funded four runner-up awards consisting of $1,000 worth of materials for each libraries.  The runners up are: Dallas Public Library, Dallas; Enoch Pratt Library, Baltimore; Passages Academy Libraries, Brooklyn, New York; and Mattawa Branch, North Central Regional Library, Mattawa, Washington.

Members of the 2020 Penguin Random House Award for Innovation Jury are: Chair Laurel Bliss, San Diego State University, California; Skip Dye, Penguin Random House, New York; Susan Henricks, Carnegie-Stout Public Library, Iowa; Caroline Romans, New York; and Meredith Steiner, San Francisco Public Library, California.

More information about the Penguin Random House Award for Innovation Award including how to submit a nomination, is available on the ALA website (