Durham County Library has won the American Library Association John Cotton Dana Library Public Relations Awards for the 2014 community reads program, Durham Reads Together featuring March: Book One by Congressman John Lewis. Considered to be ALA’s most prestigious award, the John Cotton Dana Award, provided in conjunction with the H. W. Wilson Foundation and EBSCO, honors libraries that demonstrate outstanding public relations and innovative partnerships in the community.
Library Director Tammy Baggett selected March – a graphic novel written by Lewis and Andrew Aydin, and illustrated by Nate Powell – as the perfect book for Durham Reads Together, the bi-annual event that asks the entire community to spend one month reading and discussing a single book. March: Book One is a graphic memoir of Lewis’ life and of the struggle for civil and human rights.
“In light of current events that have opened old wounds along with discussions about race, equity and civil rights, we chose to use Durham Reads Together as a way to focus on unity, a celebration of shared accomplishments in the struggle for human and civil rights, and a renewed commitment to work together in the future,” Baggett said.
Durham Reads Together enjoyed strong community support from beginning to end. More than 1,600 people participated in the 20 events held throughout October 2014. For the kickoff, more than 200 people joined the Congressman and many other elected officials for “Durham Marches Together,” a unity march from the Main Library to the civil rights mural being painted on a wall of the Durham Arts Council. The next day, Frank Stasio of WUNC’s the State of Things interviewed Lewis about the 1963 March on Washington and the Civil Rights Movement at a program entitled “Durham Remembers Together.” Throughout the month, the library hosted programs that brought the community together, including a panel discussion featuring those who have lived Durham’s Civil Rights history, an intramural choir performance that included voices from Duke, NCCU and Durham Tech, and a panel of tomorrow’s Civil Rights activists ages 12-22.
“Durham Reads Together was one of the highlights of my career with Durham County Library,” said Joanne Abel, humanities and adult programming coordinator. “So many staff and community partners helped to make this event a success. I’m grateful to all of them and to ALA for selecting us from so many wonderful programs.”
Durham County Library is one of only eight winners named nationwide, including four university libraries and four public libraries. Judges selected the winners from 77 submissions. In recognition of the achievement, the library will receive $10,000 from the H.W. Wilson Foundation at the ALA annual conference in June.
The other winning libraries are:
- Contra Costa Library – Pleasant Hill, CA
- Columbus State Library – Columbus, OH
- The Flathead County Libraries – Flathead County, MO
- A Consortium of 12 Illinois Libraries
- Loyola University Chicago Libraries – Chicago, IL
- University of Maryland Libraries – College Park, MD
- The Hesburgh Library at the University of Notre Dame – Notre Dame, IN