First lady Michelle Obama presented the Las Vegas-Clark County Library District with a prestigious national award Thursday for its efforts to fine-tune its collection and programs to help residents struggling with foreclosure, job loss and bankruptcy during the recession.
Obama appeared at a White House ceremony to give the district the National Medal for Museum and Library Service, which is the highest community service honor a museum or library can earn.
Ten museums and libraries from across the country received the medal.
“You all are redefining what it means to lead a museum or a library in the 21st century,” Obama said during the ceremony, adding that the winners “expand our horizons and connect us with the rest of the world.”
Jeanne Goodrich, director of the library district since mid-2009, said the organization reworked its strategic plan just as the community began grappling with high unemployment and the housing crash.
“The strategic plan was very abstract and didn’t really relate to the realities of what people were going through,” she said. “I wanted us to be very realistic and reality-based in our resources and programs.”
She said the district’s libraries added more computers so users could fill out job applications online, and began offering programs about managing stress and dealing with bankruptcy.
While the libraries dealt with budget cuts of their own, community members increasingly sought out the libraries as a retreat from their crowded homes or as a destination for Internet service they couldn’t afford, she said.
“One of the things that happens with most libraries is that when our income is reduced, the demand skyrockets,” Goodrich said.
She congratulated the rest of the library district staff for their sacrificial spirit during the tough times.
“They aren’t talking about what they want in their job, but what they want in their community,” she said.