National Medal brings recognition to Madison Public Library services

When the White House calls, you answer.

So it was that Greg Mickells, director of the Madison Public Library, found himself in Washington, D.C. earlier this month, accepting the National Medal for Museum and Library Service from First Lady Michelle Obama.

The National Medal for Museum and Library Service is the nation’s highest honor given to museums and libraries for service to the community, given by the Institute of Museum and Library Services

Mickells says the recognition from winning the award puts the Madison Public Library and the entire Madison community in a national spotlight. “It is an important recognition of the work that our staff is doing in our community and a testament to the community’s support of libraries. It also is significant in terms of communicating our impact to private funders and grant-making organizations.”

“The Madison Public Library’s programs and services promote creativity, innovation, and collaboration,” Dr. Kathryn K. Matthew, director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services, says in a press release. “Library initiatives — such as their early literacy efforts delivered through home health nurses and service to homeless residents — address community challenges and engage residents in new and exciting ways. As one of the 2016 National Medal for Museum and Library Service recipients, the Madison Public Library has shown an unwavering commitment to improving the lives of the people it serves. They are extremely deserving of this honor.”

According to Mickells, the Madison Public Library is determined to reach Madison residents who might most benefit from library services but aren’t able to visit the library because of barriers like time, transportation, or lack of familiarity with libraries. “Reaching the community beyond our walls calls for building capacity through partnerships with other city departments and outside agencies,” he notes.

“A growing population of individuals and families experiencing homelessness, many of whom were regular library visitors, inspired us to offer access to social services at our new Central Library,” Mickells explains. “As a result of library staff working with various social service providers, we decided to provide a dedicated office space to case management workers from Porchlight and to also partner with other social services providers like the Veterans Administration, Tellurian, Salvation Army, and Second Harvest Foodbank to provide a wide array of services.”



The Central Library now offers more than 50 hours of social services assistance weekly, connecting those in need with shelter, housing, meals, showers, storage, job assistance, and skills training. Services are also offered through some of MPL’s neighborhood libraries, including tax assistance, food share assistance, and job skills assistance.

Moving forward, Mickells says MPL will continue to expand its collaborative efforts with community organizations and individuals, including through Tell Us: Communities Inspiring Libraries toolkit created in 2014. That resource is used to inform service planning and delivery of services at the library. The packet is available in print and online in four languages — English, Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, and Hmong — and has enabled the library to connect with many individuals who it might not have reached through traditional means. The community input collected was used extensively to inform MPL’s soon to be released, Communities Inspiring Libraries: A Strategic Plan for Eastside Growth.   

More information about Madison Public Library and its programs and services can be found at

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