Florida State Library Association Honors Manatee County Library System With Four Awards

Manatee County Library System Florida Library of The Year

This is the second time in three years Manatee Libraries are taking home the Florida Library Association Youth Services Award for innovative teen programming.  In 2013 the Betty Davis Miller Youth Award was bestowed upon Manatee Libraries for ManaCon, a free and inventive teen comic convention developed by Ericka Dow, one of the research and instructional librarians, to bring the teens back into the library.  This impressively successful annual event celebrated its 5th year in October 2015, filling the library with more than 2,000 teens for the day to celebrate comic book art, culture, and traditions.  This year the youth award was once again given to Manatee Libraries for the teen recycled fashion show which incorporates household recycling, creativity, design and collaboration.  Please stop by the Central library downtown on April 16th from 1 to 3 pm for the 3rd annual Recycled Dreams event.


Kevin Beach, Library Operations Manager, also was honored this week by the Florida Library Association with a Lifetime Achievement Award.  Mr. Beach has been an integral and unflappable member of the Manatee Library staff for more than 37 years starting work in 1978 on the very day the materials were being moved from the Carnegie library into the new library downtown.   Son of State Librarian Cecil Beach, Kevin has taught and mentored hundreds of librarians over the years, both in Manatee Libraries and as an adjunct faculty member of the USF Library Science Master’s program.  Kevin created the first literacy coalition in Manatee County more than 30 years ago and continues to be deeply involved in the present day 3rd grade reading level initiative. Manatee Libraries are committed to offering literacy learning opportunities to the disadvantaged youth in our community through programming, story times, and instilling the habit of regular library use and the love of reading into every family’s routine.


Rocky Bluff Friends President Doris Pope also brought home an FLA award, for Outstanding Friends, Foundations and Boards Member.  Mrs. Pope not only serves her community with excellence through fundraising and awareness of the offerings of the Rocky Bluff Library, but she also has organized highly successful author events and book sales.  In 2015, she served as the coordinating chair for the Library Foundation of the Evening with Stephen King, which raised over $100,000 in supplemental funding for the Manatee Library System.  Volunteers advocate for the library and annually contribute hours equivalent to that of 12 full time employees.


Manatee Libraries also proudly took home the Florida Library Association Library of the Year Award.  This award honors the wide-ranging efforts our medium sized library system, which has reinvented and reenergized itself, by creating new roles in the community that have in turn led to record-breaking use, deeper civic engagement, and success in reaching a wider range of community- identified needs.   In addition to the traditional roles of connecting users with information, Manatee libraries are also literacy providers preparing the youngest in our communities for school and families with the skills they need to be a child’s first teacher.  Manatee Libraries have become a destination for gathering the community for events to enrich their lives with education and culture, events such as Star Wars Reads Day, job fairs, business expos, and creative aging series at which mature audiences can develop their talents while building new friendships.  A newly renovated Central Library facility now includes an oversized chessboard, art displays, new study rooms, a new local history museum, and soon will also feature a creative lab and small business incubation center.  We have embraced the needed concept of STEAM education (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics) by emphasizing the excitement of basic science skills in our youth programming and collections.  In addition, our new 805 arts and literary journal launched this year, adding a new dimension to our role of the library as publisher, which also includes our weekly Speaking Volumes column in the daily newspaper that has run for over 25 years.


Andrew Carnegie created and funded our nation’s public libraries based upon the model he developed to serve his workers, emphasizing the concept of a learning and cultural civic center that could enable the common man to get an education and learn about the world.  The very notion of public libraries evolved over the years to become synonymous with that of a museum or academic library as a reverently hushed building, filled to capacity with books rather than with men, women, and children pursuing their dreams and becoming lifelong learners.  Carnegie believed that in America, anyone with access to books and the desire to learn could educate him- or herself and be successful, just as he had been. As an immigrant, he also felt America’s newcomers needed to acquire cultural knowledge of the country, which a library could facilitate.


Manatee libraries are reaching back to Carnegie’s concept of a thriving community meeting center of learning, creativity and collaboration.  We are continually finding important new ways of serving the community based upon their suggestions and survey responses.  Often libraries are essential equalizers, providing needed services and materials, such as fee-free Internet service and access to bestsellers and beyond, to those who cannot afford them.  This is vital for job seekers as nearly all employment applications are no longer in paper and available only online.  The same is true of most social service applications as well.  We also fill the technology gap, teaching the community members who struggle with computers in general or with their new tablets, eReaders, smart phones, or laptops.

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So come see what Manatee Libraries can do for you!