ALA Excellence in Library Programming Award

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DellaEngage! participants at Chicago Public Library Austin BranchClass visit to the In a Nutshell: The Worlds of Maurice Sendak traveling exhibition at the Lousville Free Public Library (KY)

Sponsored by the ALA Cultural Communities Fund

What is the Excellence in Library Programming Award?

The ALA Excellence in Library Programming Award recognizes a library that demonstrates excellence in library programming by creating a cultural/thematic program or program series, presented during the preceding year (September 1 - August 31), that engages the community in planning, sponsorship and/or active participation, addresses an identified community need, and has a measurable impact.

The Award consists of $5,000 and a citation of achievement, to be presented during the ALA Award Presentation at the ALA Annual Conference.

How Do I Apply?

Applications for the 2020 ALA Excellence in Library Programming Award are now closed. Visit the application instructions or preview the online application.

What Is a Cultural/Thematic Program?

A cultural/thematic program is one that features the humanities, sciences, arts, creative arts, community and civic engagement programs, as well as programs in conjunction with exhibitions, community-wide reading programs, or other community-wide programs. The nominated program should have engaged the community in planning, sponsorship and/or active participation, addressed an identified community need, and have had a measurable impact.

Which Types of Libraries are Eligible?

In recognition that programming is an essential part of service delivery in all types of libraries, school, public, academic, and special libraries are all eligible.  The nominated program/series must have been for a public audience. 

Who Are the Past Winners?

  • 2020: Alexandria (Va.) Library

Alexandra Library created the "We Are Alexandria Library Sit-In" to celebrate the 80th anniversary of a historic protest at the library. This yearlong program series engaged the community through a variety of programs, including school visits, a film festival, anniversary week events, posters, commemorative library cards, pins and postcards. The events, which also involved Alexandria city leadership, drew standing-room-only crowds and served as a model for programming for other libraries across the nation.

Press release: "Alexandria Library (Alexandria, Virginia) wins ALA Excellence in Library Programming Award"

  • 2019: Loudoun County Public Library (Leesburg, Va.)

Loudon County Public Library, Old Ox Brewery, and the world-renowned Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Janelia Research Campus formed "Science on Tap" to better engage adults in the community. The program focused on the sciences, and targeted adults with programs on biology, neuroscience, cybersecurity, counterterrorism, bomb analysis, and space. Each month nationally and internationally recognized experts presented top-level scientific information at a local brewery.

Press release: "Loudoun County Public Library wins ALA Excellence in Library Programming Award"

  • 2018: Joliet (Ill.) Public Library

Joliet Public Library created Star Wars Day the largest Disney approved Star Wars event of its kind in the world. The program is successful because the library has keyed in on a universally cherished movie franchise that has enjoyed continual success for the past 40 years. Started in 2009, the span and scope of Joliet’s Star Wars Day has grown exponentially each year, becoming a small Star Wars convention and attracting over 10,000 visitors from several states.

Press release: "Joliet Public Library receives 2018 ALA Excellence in Library Programming Award"

  • 2017: Monroe County Public Library (Bloomington, Ind.)

The Monroe County Public Library and its partners created "Discuss, Meet, & Act: The Power of Words", a bi-annual event that features an author who writes on important topics of our time: topics that speak to the average citizen's ability to positively change the world in which we live. Discuss, Meet & Act featured book discussions, wisdom circles, a Civil Rights film series, art talks and exhibitions, and many city, university and community partners.   

Press release: "The Monroe County Public Library (Bloomington, Indiana) has been named the 2017 winner of the ALA Excellence in Library Programming Award"

  • 2016: Skokie (Ill.) Public Library

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.

Press release: "Skokie Public Library winner of ALA Excellence in Library Programming Award"

Watch a webinar about the winning program: "ALA's Excellence in Library Programming Award Presents: Creating a Civic Engagement Series about Race"

  • 2015: Oklahoma State University Library

The OSU Library and its campus and community partners created “Science Café at OSU: Potential Impacts of Oil and Gas Exploration,” a series to highlight interesting, relevant and current science-related research presented by scientists. Altogether, six programs were held on the topic of oil and gas exploration, including hydraulic fracturing. 

Press release: "ALA Excellence in Library Programming Award to Oklahoma State University Library"

Read more about OSU's programs: "Science Cafes: Engaging Your Community with Timely and Relevant Information,"

Watch a webinar about the winning program: "Science Cafes: Bringing STEM Experts to Your Community"

  • 2014: Kansas City (Mo.) Public Library

    The Kansas City Public Library and its community partners created “Greetings from Kansas City” programs and exhibitions featuring historic postcards from the library’s Missouri Valley Special Collections, as well as local historical programs to connect the citizens of Kansas City to its past.

    In the Central Library, the “Meet the Past” program series featured television talk show-style conversations with local historical figures as depicted by area actors. The eight programs drew an audience of nearly 3,200 people. A separate series of local history programs with speakers from the community and library staff drew more than 1,600 attendees.

    Press release: "The Kansas City (Mo.) Public Library named the 2014 winner of the ALA Excellence in Library Programming Award"

  • 2013: Carbondale (Ill.) Public Library

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.”

Press release: "Carbondale Public Library Wins 2013 ALA Excellence in Library Programming Award"

What is the Cultural Communities Fund?

The ALA Cultural Communities Fund (CCF) is an endowment to support cultural programming in libraries. Funding from CCF supports:

  • professional development opportunities for libraries that address practical issues related to cultural and community programs
  • awards and grants that recognize excellence in library programming
  • development and promotion of effective library programming models

Learn more about ALA's Cultural Communities Fund.