Describing the facility as “impressive,” U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, D-FL 13th District announced in a local news conference on Tuesday, May 7, that the Gulfport Public Library has won a national award of honor.
The prestigious 2019 National Medal for Museum and Library Service award is from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the group’s highest honor. The group selected five libraries and five museums for its 25th year.
The local library’s medal also comes with $10,000 in grants. Half of the money is earmarked for library services while the other is for travel expenses so a group comprised of a local staff member, a city official and a member of the community can attend the national-level ceremony in Washington, DC on June 12, said David Mather, director of library and information technology.
Crist nominated the library writing that the “library offers several invaluable resources to its diverse community” including an art makers’ space, a free summer lunch program for all kids and educational programs for older residents. He also noted it is nationally recognized for its LGBTQ Resource Center – the only one of its kind in the state of Florida. The center “provides incredible educational opportunities to community members of all backgrounds,” he wrote.
In his notification letter to Mather on May 7, Crist wrote, “I am incredibly proud to have an institution of your stature serving the people of Pinellas and setting the standard for libraries across the country.”
“It’s really exciting,” said Mather regarding the award and grant monies. It’s nice to know that the initiatives of the library staff, friends of the library, city staff and elected officials “have really made a difference in the community. So much so, that we’ve gotten the recognition of not only local people but also U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist and the national Institute of Museum and Library Services. It’s a great honor.”
In opening the ceremony, Mayor Sam Henderson said, “This is an extremely cool moment for us. I want to thank all of you who do the work to make this place run. We are proud to have this library in Gulfport – a town of about 12,500 people. The recognition this little library has gotten is on a grand scale.”
In his announcement remarks about the national award of honor, Crist said the team at the library “has done extraordinary things. Thank you all for the work you have done. You earned it. You deserve it. And, enjoy it. It’s a very special thing.”
In accepting Crist’s formal letter of congratulations, Mather said, “It’s not just books or reference, it’s really a community effort that we do here.”