The is one of only five libraries in the nation to receive the 2010 National Medal for Museum and Library Service from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). The award comes with a $10,000 prize.
"The award is to recognize and honor the work of five museums and five libraries that are making a difference in the community," Gina White, a spokesperson for IMLS, said.
Winning the award was a big surprise for library director Dina Chrils, who said that an anonymous person nominated the library for consideration.
"We don't even know who to thank," Chrils said. "We were contacted in the beginning of September that we won and we were shocked."
The library was one of 70 nationwide considered, said Mamie Bittner, another spokesperson from IMLS. Bittner said that the Patchogue-Medford library was rated very highly among the reviewers, who were the staff and boards of libraries and museums throughout the United States.
"The degree of immersion in community came through very strongly. The services offered for the Spanish-speaking and English-speaking communities and the sense that everyone considered it 'their' place came through," Bittner said.
In presenting the award the IMLS cited several bilingual services offered by the Patchogue-Medford Library, such as Language Cafe where English-speaking teens can practice conversational Spanish with their Spanish-speaking peers. The library also offers bilingual career counseling, free citizenship classes and bilingual story times for children, which were among the many bilingual services IMLS officials said displays how the library became a central place for all members of the community.
"We try to provide a shared learning experience for all members of the community," said Jean Kaleda, the library's coordinator for Spanish language outreach services. Kaleda said that Gilda Ramos also works to plan many of the multi-cultural events at the library.
Chrils said that Patchogue Mayor Paul Pontieri was among those who submitted a recommendation letter as part of the application for the award.
"The library has shown itself to be a vital piece of the community, more so then people realize," Pontieri said.
After the 2008 murder of Marcelo Lucero, Pontieri said the first place he went the following morning was to speak with Kaleda and Ramos on what to do next.
"The people in the library know the Latino community as well as anyone, and they are trusted by the Latino community as they consistently give back," Pontieri said.
The release also cited an event held at the library called Vivendo en la Villa de Patchogue, or Living in the Village of Patchogue, where a panel consisting of the mayor and village staff explained how the village worked. The event led to the hiring of bilingual village staff and the translating of municipal forms into Spanish.
Chrils said that the library will use the $10,000 to continue to fund their bilingual programs. "We will definitely continue and extend those programs," she added.
Chrils will travel to Washington, D.C. at a later date to accept the award.