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Durham County Library has been recognized locally, nationally and internationally for innovation and excellence in libraries. Listed here are some of the honors DCL has received received.


Durham Reads Together, ALA's John Cotton Dana Library Public Relations Award

John Cotton Dana Award sealWith Durham Reads Together: March, the library became a relevant and proactive part of our community’s ongoing quest for equity and civil rights for all. We hosted author, US Congressman and civil rights icon, John Lewis, for a weekend of kickoff events that began with a unity march, and that spoke to Durham’s struggles of the past and present. With a comprehensive marketing strategy, and intentional scheduling of powerful programs that built on the “Durham … Together” theme, we reinvigorated our biennial community reads series and helped reinforce the power of a unified community to tackle even its toughest problems.

Read more about the award.

Digging Durham Seed Library, National Association of Counties Achievement Award

NACo Achievement Award Winner sealIn April 2014, Durham County Library launched the Digging Durham Seed Library at the Main Library and two regional libraries. Library patrons are now able to “check out” seeds and then “return” harvested seeds once the growing season is complete. The Seed Library offers a variety of fruits, vegetables and flowers. In February 2014, the library began collecting seeds from local gardeners, farms, community organizations and businesses. We held workshops for the public in early April to explain the process of seed saving for residents interested in donating seeds but unsure of how to do so. In a nod to nostalgia, the seed packets are stored in old-fashioned card catalogs. Checkout is limited to four packets per patron, and additional information is available at each location with growing instructions for the seeds. No library card is required for patrons to “borrow” the seeds, which is done on the honor system. Seeds are available in the spring and fall, and every library location accepts seed donations in order to help replenish the supply. By providing seeds and encouraging seed saving, Digging Durham Seed Library helps to develop seed stock that is well suited to our climate and boosts local biodiversity. It also helps citizens save money. The program has brought new patrons to the library, especially the hard to reach 20-30 year olds. The seed library also supports and promotes local interest in environmental sustainability efforts and sustainable food sources. The library partners with S.E.E.D.S, a local nonprofit; Master Gardeners; and the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association. The program is funded by a grant from Durham Library Foundation. To date, residents have “checked out” more than 4000 seed packets, and seed donations come in regularly. Residents can learn more about the program or share their stories about growing our seeds at

Cankerworm Banding Kit Checkout, National Association of Counties Achievement Award


NACo Achievement Award Winner sealIn a program that built on a City/County initiative, Durham County Library partnered with the Sustainability Office’s Trees Across Durham initiative to provide tree banding kits to residents to aid in the population control of Cankerworms. In October 2014, the library provided a central location and an infrastructure that allowed residents to ‘checkout’ Cankerworm banding kits at no charge. Trees Across Durham supplied the library with kits that included burlap, plastic and a stapler to secure a ‘band’ to the trees. Residents used the kits, and then returned the stapler and any leftover supplies. Library staff would notify Trees Across Durham staff, who would then restock the kit. Then the library would check out the kit again. On the very first day of availability, residents visited the library asking for the kits. The demand for the kits was so great that over the duration of the program (from October 2014-January 2015) the original 7 kits grew to 15 available for checkout. There was never a period after the start date when there was not a waiting list. The program was even more successful than anticipated, with more than 82 checkouts. Each kit contained enough supplies to band at least two trees, and many patrons said they had been able to band three. Because of this collaboration, between 164 and 246 trees were banded. The program helped raise awareness about preserving trees, and the library served as a place where citizens could ask questions and pick up informational materials, as well. In the late fall and early winter, the library became one of the public sites where citizens could pick up free ‘goop’ for the last step of the banding process.


First Library in Space, Urban Libraries Council Top Innovator

First Library in Space took Durham County Library’s role as a makerspace and resource for STEM programming to new heights. Teens helped build a capsule and launch it into near space. The community tracked the flight online with onboard GPS, and teens wrote the original music for the documentary video.

Sensory Storytimes for Adults with Special Needs, National Association of Counties Achievement Award

2014 NACo Achievement AwardSensory Storytime, a program led by librarian Sarah Alverson at the Stanford L. Warren Branch Library, is an interactive, age appropriate storytime for adults with special needs. Similar to children’s storytimes, Sensory Storytime for adults incorporates music, storytelling, interactive reading, dancing and more. In public libraries, storytimes are offered to children of all ages. They are designed to meet a number of needs, including but not limited to, entertainment, development of comprehension and literacy skills, introduction to multiculturalism, early advocacy for reading and improvement of social skills. The program began in May 2012 after librarians realized a lack of opportunities for special needs communities.

ChallengeWave, National Association of Counties Achievement Award

2014 NACo Achievement AwardDurham County Library and the Durham County Department of Public Health dared residents to take the ChallengeWave – a four-week, community-wide fitness program that pitted library patrons against each other as they competed to rack up the most ‘activity minutes’ in one month. Willa Robinson, health promotion & wellness program coordinator, and Gina Rozier, marketing and development manager for the library, coordinated the joint project. By tying teams to library locations, the Health Dept. was able to reach people throughout the county, and by linking the fitness competition to the annual Summer Reading Club, the library raised the profile of the ChallengeWave and increased adult participation in Summer Reading.