Stories from 20 Years of Extraordinary Museums & Libraries

Today our partners at the Institute of Museum and Library Services announced winners for the 2014 National Medal for Museum and Library Service. We Are StoryCorps is featuring guest bloggers from our Custom Services department to talk about their experiences with this amazing institution.

“Four years, 50 trips across the country, and nearly 900 interviews recorded.” This is how we could catalogue our relationship with The National Medal for Museum and Library Service. But the most important number to note–the number of lives touched by the libraries and museums we have visited during our travels–is countless.

Raivynn Smith is all smiles as she poses next to her aunt Blossom Smith after completing their StoryCorps interview at Cincinnati Library, a 2013 National Medal Winner.

Raivynn Smith is all smiles as she poses next to her aunt Blossom Smith after completing their StoryCorps interview at Cincinnati Library, a 2013 National Medal Winner.

Each year, our partners at the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), awards the annual National Medal to ten museums and libraries that “demonstrate extraordinary and innovative approaches to public service, exceeding the expected levels of community outreach.” This year, for the 20th anniversary of the National Medal, we had the honor of recording the stories of the people who make these institutions remarkable.

IMLS captured this special moment of First Lady Michelle Obama standing next to two lucky IMLS StoryCorps participants, Tayquan Pomare-Taylor and Carole Charnow (left to right), from Boston's Children Library. Photo credit IMLS.

IMLS captured this special moment of First Lady Michelle Obama standing next to two lucky IMLS StoryCorps participants, Tayquan Pomare-Taylor and Carole Charnow (left to right), from Boston’s Children Library. Photo credit IMLS.

IMLS sent StoryCorps Facilitators high and low to find unsung heroes these institutions–the librarians, tutors, artists, security guards, and so many more. We rolled our recording equipment from big city cultural centers–such as the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx– to small town staples–like the Naturita Community Library in Colorado who serves a population fewer than 500 people. So what do these institutions have in common? It is not just that they are amazing at what they do, but that they constantly defy expectations. For example, Virginia’s Park View High School Library hosts live World Music celebrations–breaking away from the traditional “shhh!” of a library by bringing in joyous noise performed by student bands!

Here are some other story gems that we’ve heard among the gallery walls and library stacks:

“I’m not a nurse, I’m not a teacher but I’m kind of like combination of that. I’m helping people grow.” –Blossom Smith, Librarian, Public Library of Cincinnati & Hamilton County

“People like you can never be forgotten, because you helped shape who I am.”–Oscar Mansfield, poet, to his former tutor, Lora Osterloh, Contra Costa County Library

“I know it feels good to make something, so I want to give girls a space and a reason to do that.”–Jillian Hernandez, Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami

Congratulations to this year’s National Medal Winners! We can’t wait to meet you and hear the unique stories that make your communities special. Thank you for the important work you do every day!

2011 National Medal Winner, Peter White Public Library sweetly greets StorCorps and our Facilitators with a tasty surprise.

2011 National Medal Winner, Peter White Public Library sweetly greets StorCorps and our Facilitators with a tasty surprise.


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