2011 National Medal for Museum and Library Service Ceremony

Susan Hildreth: The National Medal for Museum
and Library Service is the highest national honor conferred on museums and libraries for
services to their communities. The institutions we honor tonight have been chosen for their
innovative approaches to public service and for their success in improving communities
and making a difference in peopleís lives. I would like to read an excerpt from a letter
from First Lady Michelle Obama to our honorees. Museums and libraries inspire us to stretch
our imaginations and play an important role in exposing Americans of all ages and backgrounds
to fresh ideas. They teach our children new skills and ways of thinking, and even help
to promote lifelong wellness. From big cities to small towns, this yearís medal winners
are making tremendous contributions to our communities through innovative programming
and a commitment to excellence. You are helping to lift up all those who visit your institutions
and I hope you take pride in all you have accomplished. I second Mrs. Obamaís sentiments
and add my congratulations to the winners of the 2011 National Medal for Museum and
Library Service. Thank you for everything you do. It is now my honor to introduce our
special guest, who will in a few minutes join me in presenting the medals. Cokie Roberts
is an award winning journalist and author, a senior news analyst for NPR News, where
she was the Congressional Correspondent for more than 10 years and political commentator
for ABC News, providing analysis for all networking news programming. She has won many awards
including three Emmys. She has been inducted into the Broadcasting and Cable Hall of Fame
and was cited by American Women in Radio and Television as one of the 50 greatest women
in the history of broadcasting. She is a sought after speaker and we are so honored that she
is taking part in this event this evening. Please welcome Cokie Roberts.
Cokie Roberts: What a treat it is to be with all of these people doing such wonderful work
and honoring them, particularly here at the Capitol. I mean, I love this place. I grew
up here. This is a beautiful room, look at it. When youíre in hearings here, you can
just start looking at the ceiling and not having to pay attention to what theyíre talking
about, but which is good. But the contentiousness here is so awful these days, that to be able
to come into this institution, which really is the place where we should be coming together,
thatís what congress means, and you librarians can point that out to some children and particularly
to some grown ups. And but, instead of having the contention here we are all together to
honor people who have done wonderful, wonderful work. And I am really happy to have been asked
to join with the Institute for Museum and Library Services and my Public Radio colleague,
David Isay, who has been bringing the history of this country through the spoken word throughout
the country. The Library of Congress, of course, has all of his StoryCorps recordings, but
itís all over the country and the StoryCorps mobile, what do you call that thing? Is that
whatís itís called? Thatís good. Do you like that? Like the old bookmobiles and of
course, you hear them on National Public Radio. I got my first library card when I was five
years old and I remember it very well because we– my mother marched me into the local library.
It was on Lee Circle in New Orleans. And they told her that I couldnít have a card until
I was six. And she said, ìBut sheís reading.î And they said, ìNo, she canít have a card.î
And my mother was the wrong person to say this too. And she then– but she is– she
is Iím happy to say, she is with us at 95. She very graciously, as she always is, worked
out a compromise, something that when she was in Congress, they still knew how to do.
And she said, ìWell, suppose we arrange it so that if she can write her name on the card,
she can have a card?î And the librarian just basically was out of resources to say no,
and so I wrote my name and got my card. And have been an avid user of libraries ever since.
I now have two library cards; my local Montgomery County Public Library here and my Library
of Congress Researcherís card, which I have to work really hard for. And of course, the
role of museums in our lives is always so incredibly important and you never know when
itís going to make an enormous difference. Recently, just last Martin Luther King holiday
in January I had one of my grandsons for the day and he said, ìI want to go to see something
about Martin Luther King.î, and it was before the monument had opened and happily because
I wouldnít have wanted to go there in January, and the American History Museum, the Museum
of American History or whatever itís called now, was having a whole Martin Luther King
presentation and he was mesmerized. And now, and he was six, five and now can tell you
a great deal about Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement and all that because
he had that experience in a museum. I had an experience in a museum that really in some
ways changed my life. We lived in Greece for about four years. My husband was the New York
Time Bureau Chief there and I was stringing for various news organizations, mainly CBS
and we used to go to Marathon all the time, with the– our kids were little. And weíd
go to the beach at Marathon, but of course, Marathon, itís Marathon and thereís a big
mound there thatís supposed to be where the Persians were buried. But the– if you go
back into the hills, there just sort of nestled into the bottom of one of the hills is this
tiny museum, just tiny. And itís from thousands of years before the battle of Marathon, and
it has all of these very simple objects in it. It has some cooking utensils and itís
got some jewelry and itís got some weapons and itís got some objects for worship and
I looked in, and itís tiny, and I looked at those things and I thought, for women we
could open those cases and put on those jewels and take up those tools and start right where
those women from 5,000 years ago left off without missing a beat. For men, theyíd have
to be priests or warriors, which is why I think they didnít let women in for a long
time, but for women that sense of continuity was so evident and so strong that itís really
affected my work tremendously. I mean, I wrote a book called, We Are Our Mothersí Daughters
as a result of that experience, and I have– it has very much informed my life since then.
So I am a great believer in both libraries and museums and in the power that they have
in our lives. I must say our children in those years in Greece did feel terribly oppressed
having to read every sign in every museum. My husband just will not it rest, but it was
a great learning experience, as it continues to be, of course, here at home. And the wonderful
stories that you saw glimpses of in this nice video and that youíll hear a little bit more
about as we give the awards, really do give you a sense of the scope of these institutions
and how they interact in their communities, both with individuals in the communities and
with the groups in the communities and with the community as a whole. And so, anything
from the Weippe Public Library helping a family when it relocated from Arizona to Idaho, to
the Brooklyn Museum. I mean, these are the difference of sizes where the– where tremendous
inspiration to a young artist, to the Madison Childrenís Museum providing performance opportunities
to a brain damaged young man who was able to find work there and do performances that
really made his life meaningful. So it is great that we are celebrating these libraries
and museums. As you know better than I, but it always bears restating, itís a tough,
tough time. Youíve got more demands on you than ever before in history and fewer resources
and that is really difficult. Every public library these days or any one worth its salt
is serving as a whole community institution where people come and they come in to use
the computers and do their resumes there and they are buying fewer books, so theyíre sitting
and reading books in the library or taking books out of the library. Community organizations
are meeting in libraries because thatís where they can afford to meet, and so hours have
to be longer and staff is stretched and of course the cutbacks from government agencies
are great. And that really does create enormous problems, and it also comes at a time when
everybody is being required, and I think the word is required, to modernize constantly.
That fascinating little clip we saw from the Minnesota Seminary, no itís a priory. What
is it? A monastery, thank you. I actually speak Catholic, but my mother was the Ambassador
to the Vatican, right, which is a whole other story. But the absolute demand to go digital
is really just– itís fundamental because anyone whoís doing research now has got to
be able to get to that information on his or her computer where ever they are, and so
to make that possible is also now– itís not an option. So all of that is a tremendous
responsibility, and the same things is true of museums where more and more relevance is
required more and more community outreach, more and more, again, the good news, thereís
a good news part of this. Good news is that more and more people are using the museums
as they have fewer dollars to spend on other forms of entertainment, but it puts a tremendous
stress on staff and on the institutions. I think the other really good news, and certainly
the people here in this room who are getting these wonderful awards are the most exemplative
of it. The other good news is that the museums and libraries are stepping up to it. I am
so impressed with the work thatís being done, with the imagination that is coming to the
fore as people find ways to deal with the difficulties that theyíre facing and understand
that one of the ways is to be more and more engaged in the community and have the community
be more and more and more engaged in the institutions. Thatís the way it always should have been
anyway. And I know itís really hard work, and I know Iím just saying it and itís easy
for me to say and itís really hard for you to do, but it is really important that you
do it, and itís wonderful that you are doing it and I am very honored to be able to salute
you tonight. So thank you. Susan Hildreth: Thank you, Cokie for those
inspiring remarks. I would now like to introduce Mary Chute, the IMLS Deputy Director for Library
Services and Claudia French, the Deputy Director for Museum Services, who will read the names
of the medalists and those accepting the medals and tell you a little bit about each of our
winners. Mary Chute: Hi everyone. Itís great to have
you here. Because the national medal is about service to the community, each medal winner
has brought with them someone on whom their institution has had a significant positive
impact. Claudia and I will read the names of the honorees and briefly summarize the
stories of these members of the communities. When we call your names, please come forward
and receive your medal from Susan and Cokie. Alachua County Library District in Gainesville,
Florida, Director Shaney T. Livingston, Ward Chair Sherwin Henry and community member Lenore
Krome. Lenore started using the Archer Library branch of the Alachua County Library District
by bringing her small children to attend programs and check out numerous books. By exposing
her family to the joy of reading and the wonders of the world outside of their little town
and by using the library and her teaching, Lenore has taken full advantage of this small,
rural library. All right. Thank you. Thatís great.
The Columbus Metropolitan Library in Columbus, Ohio; CFO Dewitt Harold, Board Chair, Roger
Sugarman and community member Khamall Howard. Khamall joined the library summer youth program
as a high school sophomore and eventually took on a leadership role in the program.
During his senior year, he was hired as a library services aid. Library of Congress,
here we go right there. The Hill Museum and Manuscript Library in
Collegeville, Minnesota; Director Father Columba Stewart, Board Chair Thomas Joyce and community
member Getatchew Haile. In 1975 while recovering from a brutal beating he received as he was
evicted from his native Ethiopia, Dr. Haile was hired by the Hill Museum and Manuscript
Library. His work there has been instrumental in preserving the history of Ethiopia.
The San Jose Public Library in San Jose, California. We have to let Susan do her little California
cheer. Director Jane Light, Board Chair Jean Lee, community member Vikram Kanth. Vikram
now a freshman at the US Naval Academy learned to love his library at an early age when his
immigrant parents brought him there for its childrenís services. Vikram has since paid
the library back by organizing a not-for-profit to raise funds for the library.
The Weippe Public Library and Discovery Center in Weippe, Idaho; Director Terri Summerfield,
Acting Board Chair Marjorie Kuchynka, I think I have that right, Kuchynka, community member
Grady Thompson. Grady discovered all the library had to offer after moving to Weippe from Tucson
in 2008, especially enamored of the libraryís safe and inviting atmosphere, Grady and her
family have used the library for everything from childrenís programs to paying bills
online. Claudia French: All right museums, whereís
Brooklyn? Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, New York; Director Arnold Lehman, Board Chair Jack Tamagni
and community member Virginia Vergara. An art enthusiast from an early age, Virginia
gained knowledge and confidence in the Brooklyn Museumís apprentice program. She is now a
visual artist and art professional. EdVenture Childrenís Museum, Columbia, South
Carolina; Director Catherine Horne, community member Noah Aitchison Adams and his mom Mary.
Mary and Noah joined EdVenture Community Health Initiative, the Big Ed Health Team, four years
ago. Noah has made many trips through Eddie, a 40 foot, 17 ton museum centerpiece designed
to teach people about the human body. Bravo. All right, Erie, Pennsylvania. Erie Art Museum;
Director John Vanco, community member Victoria Angelo. Victoria became involved with the
Eerie Art Museum in 2004 as part of the Old Songs, New Opportunities Project where she
learned how to work in an American daycare setting and had to use her traditional African
song and dance on the job. She is now one of the 30 artists featured in the museumís
exhibit, Making It Better, Folk Arts in Pennsylvania Today.
I know thereís a lot of people from here. Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, Richmond, Virginia;
Director Frank Robinson, Board Chair Bill King and community member Christ Corsello.
Chris, working with his aid, Lisa Watts, has volunteered at the Lewis Ginter Botanical
Gardens for nearly two years. He enjoys making a meaningful contribution to the garden and
appreciates the community he has found there. And last, but not least, Madison Childrenís
Museum, Madison, Wisconsin; Director Ruth Shelly and community member Benjamin Perreth.
Ben, who suffered a brain hemorrhage at the age of seven, and has survived numerous surgeries
and other medical challenges, began volunteering as a juggler at MCM. He now what he calls
his dream job working with the museum as a visitor services associate.
Susan Hildreth: I am so impressed with all these wonderful medalists, and particularly
we have so many young people representing as our community members. Weíre very, very
proud of them and we know weíre making a difference in their lives.

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