2021 National Medal for Museum and Library Service

2021 National Medal for Museum and Library Service Recipient

Virtual award ceremony

Join IMLS Director Crosby Kemper on August 24, 2021 at 3pm, for a one-hour virtual ceremony honoring the six recipients of the 2021 National Medal for Museum and Library Service. The National Medal for Museum and Library Service is the nation’s highest honor given to libraries and museums that make significant and exceptional contributions to their communities.

Memphis Public Libraries is one of six recipients of the 2021 National Medal for Museum and Library Service, the nation’s highest honor given to libraries and museums that make significant and exceptional contributions to their communities, making us the first-ever two-time recipient (2007 and 2021).

Banner from the Institute of Museum and Library Services showing the National Medal for Museum and Library Service and the text, "2021 Winner National Medal for Museum & Library Service".

Library staff from across the system celebrate with the National Medal for Museum & Library Service!

The Institute of Museum and Library Services has named Memphis Public Libraries as one of 30 finalists for the 2021 National Medal for Museum and Library Service. We are honored to represent Memphis and Tennessee as this is the nation’s highest honor bestowed upon libraries and museums. The winners of the award will be announced in early May. Through March and April we’ll be sharing our story, and we need YOU to share your story, too!

How do I share my story?

The Institute of Museum and Library Services is encouraging anyone whose life has been touched by one of the finalist libraries to share their memories and pictures on Facebook and Twitter by using the hashtag #IMLSMedals and #ShareyourMPLstory. Please tag us too!

Facebook – Memphis Public Libraries

Twitter – Memphis Libraries

See what others are saying!

Follow the #IMLSMedals hashtag campaign here. See what other finalists are saying.

View Facebook #IMLSMedals posts and view Twitter #IMLSMedals posts.

Add your picture and memory by posting to Facebook or Twitter with the #IMLSMedals and #ShareyourMPLstory hashtags.

MPL 2020 Year in Review Text Version

more stories

Here are some of our stories. We wouldn’t be a finalist without you and our many partners throughout the community.

LINC librarian using a computer to answer customer questions.

LINC/2-1-1 Met the challenge

Whether it’s Hurricane Elvis or the Coronavirus, LINC/2-1-1 has answered the call through thick and thin since 1975. From April through August, 2020, LINC/2-1-1 fielded 25% more calls than usual with other librarians being called in to help meet the demand.

Learn more about their efforts from this High Ground News article.

Librarians social distancing in an office working as contract tracers.

contact tracing

With libraries opened limited hours, librarians served as contact tracers early in the pandemic. Fifty librarians worked with the Shelby County Health Department to follow up on positive cases and help track down recent contacts.

WYPL staffer working the COVID press briefings on a computer.

wypl covid press briefings

The Library Channel/WYPL, the Libraries TV and radio station, were called upon to produce the daily/weekly COVID Task Force press briefings. The conferences streamed on Facebook Live and aired on the TV and Radio station.

Watch this video to learn more.

Two library staffers helping to pack and deliver meals for Meals on Wheels.

meals on wheels delivery

Beginning March 20, 2020, we began assisting MIFA to support the Meals on Wheels program as they had to discontinue volunteer operations. Over 60 library staff stepped up to deliver meals, providing over 2,800 hours of support.

Two library staff setting up meals to distribute to school children during the pandemic.

SCS/YMCA Food distribution

Several library locations served as pick-up points for Shelby County Schools and YMCA food distribution. Library staff assisted with the processing and handing out of meals and instructional material to children.

Library patron in mask at a library computer.

computer access

Memphis Public Libraries closed their doors on March 18, but re-opened May 4th with limited capacity, providing critical access to public computers. We have had over 134,000 computer sessions from May through February.

Customer checking out library materials at the circulation desk inside the Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library.

access to our collections

Opening on May 4 provided access to our collections as over 450,000 physical items checked out between May and February. We also expanded our services to include Curbside Pickup. In addition, customers can submit Children’s Book Bundles and our children’s librarians will hand-pick a bundle of books based on your input.

Customer using a phone and laptop to access electronic materials.

e-books and e-audiobooks

After the Safer at Home order went into effect, the library increased OverDrive eBook/eAudio collection size by adding nearly 12,000 titles initially. We have since added nearly 20,000 copies. The number of checkouts increased 32% over the same time period the year prior. The number of checkouts for Children’s material increased 252%.

“I appreciate your work supporting the digital collection, and it is especially helpful in the current crisis…being able to access a steady diet of both information and entertainment is helping to keep me together.” – eBook customer

Illustration of someone at home using their phone to participate in the Safer at Home reading challenge.

reading challenges

With the initial Safer at Home order, we launched our first online reading challenge with prizes given to top participants. Over 992,000 reading minutes were logged by the 1,771 participants, 70% of which were youth.

Woman holding a smart phone taking a picture of the University of Memphis campus.

virtual programs

We’ve gathered online for book clubs, story times, concerts, classes on cooking, painting, gardening, writing, and so much more. Over 10,500 people have attended our virtual programs, youth consisting of 68% of attendees.

“These programs are vital for keeping us connected, learning new skills, and just having fun!” – Ukulele concert attendee