For the first time, DeKalb is receiving some literary praise from the state.
The DeKalb County Public Library system was named Georgia Public Library of the Year by the Georgia Public Library Service. The organization selected the library system based on its “efforts to grow meaningful engagement and impact within their diverse community,” according to a news release.
The organization also named Sandy Hester, director of the Coastal Plain Regional Library system as Librarian of the Year, and Friends of Georgia Libraries president Dan Aldridge, as Public Library Champion of the Year.
The DeKalb library system director credited the recent changes in programming in the past few years for the honor.
“Every couple of years we like to come up with something new and fun that people can get behind,” Allison Weissinger told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Thursday.
In the past two years, the DeKalb library system ramped up its programming efforts through its “Read More” campaign, an initiative created to promote literacy.
Part of that was creating Fine Free Summer, which exempted parents from paying for their children’s overdue books. The library system also received a $50,000 grant from the National Endowment of the Humanities for PRIME TIME Preschool, a program that prepares 3- and 4-year-olds for preschool and reading over a six-week period. The system was also required to match grant funds.
The program launched in fall 2018 and is expected to continue through 2020.
Weissinger said the library system also hired a facilitator to do pre- and post-test interviews with the children to track their progress. According to an impact study, children in the program increased their recognition of words by 28 percent.
The library system also created “Take the Internet Home with You,” which allows patrons to check out a mobile hotspot device and take it home for up to three weeks. Each device holds 25 gigabytes of data through each billing cycle.
“We liken it back to the day when we finally got DVDs,” she said. “Everyone wanted one so badly it was hard to meet the demand.”
The program was piloted at four DeKalb library branches, but Weissinger said the library system is looking to expand the program to five more branches and add 50 more hotspots, bringing the system’s total to 125.
The library system also launched its Human Library Project featuring guest speakers in 2017.
“This is a great program to allow people to bring an open mind and meet a person totally different than themselves, have a conversation and walk away with a better understand of someone else,” Weissinger said.
The list of guests has included, a wrongfully convicted man, an imam, a transgender woman, a drag queen, a reformed gang member and a blind person.
The library system will be presented with its award on Jan. 31 at Decatur Library. This year’s winners will also be recognized at a ceremony during the Georgia Council for Public Libraries’ annual Public Library Day at the Capitol at 12:30 p.m. Feb. 13.
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