HAINES - There isn't a small-town library in the country that does a better job serving its community than the Haines Borough Public Library. That's what judges for the Library Journal decided in naming the Haines library the best small library in America for 2005.
The award, co-sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, carries with it a $10,000 prize and a measure of prestige. Nearly 150 communities across the country with populations up to 25,000 competed for the title.
"We created the Best Small Library in America Award to recognize the achievements of libraries in small communities with limited means but the greatest of success. The Haines Borough Public Library is a clear winner for its steady progress, commitment to community and excellent services," said Library Journal editor John Berry III.
Haines was chosen based on a wide range of criteria, including growth in usage, community support, development of innovative programs, partnerships with other organizations, and use of technology to expand services.
The local library's expertise in these areas is highlighted in a four-page cover story in the February edition of the Library Journal, a professional publication with more than 100,000 readers.
Berry, who wrote the piece, "The Library Haines Built," described "impressive" circulation statistics that show 67,000 visits annually from seasonal workers, tourists and year-round residents in a valley with a population of only 2,600. The library was founded in 1928.
More than 112,000 items were checked out last year and 28,000 computer sessions logged - a 70 percent increase in Web usage over the previous year. Circulation has increased 77 percent during the last five years; 27 percent last year alone.
Use of the library as a community center also has grown, with 78 different groups holding nearly 350 events in the facility, from wedding receptions to public meetings, last year.
"The consensus of our staff and board is that in a small community where resources and opportunities are limited, it is important that the library is there for everybody," library director Ann Myren said in the journal article.
The library's Dragonfly Project, which trains teenagers to work as technology mentors, is cited as an example of Haines' exemplary collaborative efforts.
The mentoring program, developed with support from Chilkoot Indian Association, has been so successful it's been adopted by other rural communities.