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Library LINK sites program honored with prestigious Highsmith Award

DETROIT LAKES - The Public Library Association announced last week that the winner of the coveted Highsmith Award for Library Innovation for 2008 is Lake Agassiz Regional Library based in Moorhead.

This award honors LARL for pioneering work in creating the Library LINK Sites program, which now has a three-year track record of success in serving small communities in west central Minnesota.

"This project demonstrated an innovative method of allowing patron access to transcend both geographical and community lines," said PLA Highsmith Committee Chair Sandra Wee. "The Library LINK Sites program was able to develop such expanded access in a cost-effective and user-friendly manner."

PLA, which is a division of the American Library Association (ALA), gives this award each year to the one library in the nation that best exemplifies cutting-edge library outreach, including:

Collaborative efforts of staff and community in the planning process.

n Measurements of success based on usage, attendance, and community awareness.

n Quality and appropriateness of program documentation.

n Sustainability of the program over time.

n Ability to be replicated by other public libraries.

"We've been amazed by how the LINKs benefit not only our small communities but also the library system as a whole," said LARL Director Kathy Fredette, "and we are thrilled to be recognized by this award."

She explained that more remote customers can now enjoy a wealth of library resources they did not have before, and the regional system gains the enthusiasm and the input of the small communities. She also noted that the award is "a feather in the cap for LARL staff and volunteers who worked so hard to launch the LINKs concept and let it soar."

According to Fredette, "Just as we link more people and communities to needed resources, these sites offer more opportunities for people to connect with each other, to share books and information, and to meet in a welcoming environment. The name LINK says it all."

The LINKs concept, which was developed by LARL staff and volunteers, started with three pilot sites in 2004. There are now a total of 10 sites spread out over LARL's seven-county service area, in the communities of Cormorant, Frazee, Gonvick, Halstad, Hendrum, Lake Park, Rothsay, Shelly, Twin Valley and Ulen.

As of January 2008, overall circulation at the sites has increased by 23 percent, the number of customer visits has risen by 17 percent, and the number of registered borrowers is up by 96 percent.

"We're taking this year to evaluate all 10 of the current sites before we consider adding any more," said Fredette.

Charlotte Cox, the former volunteer coordinator for LARL who submitted the winning application to the Highsmith Committee, commented, "The LINK Sites represent a true partnership of community leaders, volunteers, library professionals, and the reading public. Come visit them -- it's a great opportunity to experience a new approach to library services."

The actual award, which consists of a plaque and a $2,000 check for the winning library, will be presented during the American Library Association's national conference in Anaheim, Calif., in June of this year.