KTUU: Kuskokwim Consortium receives highest national honor for libraries

The Institute of Museum and Library Services announced Friday that Bethel’s Kuskokwim Consortium Library is the recipient of the 2023 National Medal for Museum and Library Science, the highest accolade given to libraries and museums in the United States.

Additional recipients of the award include the Los Angeles County Library, New Jersey’s Long Branch Free Public Library, and the Toledo Lucas County Public Library in Ohio.

The library was nominated — for the second year in a row — by Sen. Lisa Murkowski in recognition of the personalized services the library provides to the Bethel community.

“I have been so impressed by the important resources and personalized services they provide — including access to internet connectivity, educational support, help for the homeless and food insecure, and cultural preservation — not only to the students at the UAF Kuskokwim Campus but to everyone in Bethel,” Murkowski said in a press release.

As one of the few places in the community with free access to the internet, the library is a vital resource for many, whether they’re applying for the PFD, filing their taxes, or looking up a recipe. It also provides programming for adults like birdwatching, reading programs, and the ever-popular Dutch oven cooking lessons. In addition to books in English, the library also houses a significant collection of materials in the Yup’ik language for adults and children.

Library director Theresa Quiner says that programming is one of the things that makes this library special.

“I think one of the things that really stands out in us receiving this award is the quantity and the quality of programs that we do. We have a very busy schedule of activities that we organize for the community for people of all ages,” Quiner said. “Those range from outdoor activities to introduce people to skills and activities that make living here so fun. Like last weekend, we did a Dutch oven cooking class, next week we have a kayaking program.”

The Kuskokwim Consortium Library has an affiliation with the University of Alaska Fairbanks, which has a satellite campus in Bethel. Books transferred to patrons at the Kuskokwim library take about a week to arrive from other members of the Alaska Library Catalog. UAF chancellor Dan White commended the work in that community.

 “UAF is proud of our rural campuses and the services they provide in Alaskan communities. The Kuskokwim Consortium Library is a shining example of UAF’s commitment to our communities, and I am grateful for the leadership of Kuskokwim Campus Director Carolyn Goolsby and Library Director Theresa Quiner in carrying out this mission,” White said.

The win has qualified the Kuskokwim Consortium Library for the 2023 National Medal for Museum and Library Service, recognizing institutions that make a difference in the lives of their community members. The library will also receive an award of $10,000, which will likely be used to enhance the Dolly Parton Imagination Library started in 2020.

Representatives from the library will be invited to Washington, D.C., for an award ceremony later this year, including director Quiner, youth services coordinator Mikayla Miller, and campus director Goolsby.

For Quiner, being recognized with this award reflects the hard work of not only those at the Kuskokwim Consortium Library, but of all library professionals in the state.

“Public libraries are really important in every community. And they’re even more important in a small town where there aren’t a ton of services available,” Quiner said. “So we really have to be creative in order to meet the needs in the same way as a bigger library system.”

By:  Shannon Cole
Source: KTUU