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Library Journal names Dade County as finalist for 2016 Best Small Library in America award

GPLS News, February 2016

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Library Journal names Dade County as finalist for 2016 Best Small Library in America award
From left: Dade County Library staff members Sharp, Tasha Denton, Dave Connis and April Tinker

The LaFayette-based Cherokee Regional Library System's (CRLS) Dade County Library has been named a finalist for Library Journal's 2016 Best Small Library in America award. The honor comes with a $10,000 cash award to fund continued excellence in the library field.

In its announcement, the magazine stated the Dade County Library stood out from a field of strong nominees due to its focus on innovative programming and collaboration with the local community.

The Dade County Library has served as a state model on various Georgia Public Library Service pilot projects, including the implementation of Chromeboxes, the circulation of preloaded Kindles and the PRIME TIME Preschool project, which targeted at-risk, lowincome families -- most of them first-time library users.

Inventive programs also made positive impressions on the judging panel. These include the library's Innovation Station makerspace, its six Children's Discovery Centers for checkout to teachers and a loan program for outdoor games that includes co-sponsored regular programming in the park.

Most notably, however, the judges were inspired by the community's love of the Dade County Public Library. According to Branch Manager Marshana Sharp, when the library's funding reached rock bottom due to the financial devastation of a trio of tornadoes that swept through the county in April 2011 -- including one that split open the library's roof and damaged more than 27,000 volumes -- the local community raised $52,777 to keep the library open in two temporary homes until local government funding could be restored.

"The Dade County Library would not be open today without the support and love of the local community, and we certainly would never have received this award without them," said Lecia Eubanks, library director for CRLS. "The extent to which the library is used, the number of new patrons who come in each year, and the financial support of its funding agencies and patrons all made the Dade County Library stand out as one of the top three best small libraries in America."

In addition to the $10,000 cash award, the library will receive conference costs for two representatives to attend and be recognized at the Public Library Association's 2016 annual conference, to be held April 5-9 in Denver.

The library and its staff will celebrate their national recognition by hosting a reception for the community Feb. 12.