Mellisa Hall, the building supervisor at the Curtis Memorial Library, works on framing a piece for the “Robert McCloskey: The Art of Wonder” exhibit that opened on June 20, 2023. The exhibition and its program helped bring new and lapsed patrons to the library, earning the library a 2024 John Cotton Dana Award. Derek Davis / Portland Press Herald file photo

Curtis Memorial Library is one of eight libraries in the U.S. and Canada selected to receive the 2024 John Cotton Dana Award in recognition of its strategic communication and public relations related to hosting the “Robert McCloskey: The Art of Wonder” exhibit in 2023. The exhibit and its programs helped bring thousands of new and lapsed patrons back into the library after COVID — doubling the number of visitors and new library cards issued each month of the exhibit compared to 2021 numbers, according to the library.

The Brunswick library is the first public library in Maine to receive the award in its nearly 80-year history.

“Like many libraries, Curtis Memorial Library tried many things to bring visitor and new cardholder numbers — and corresponding municipal funding amounts — back to 2019 levels. It wasn’t until the library hosted an exhibit of work from the late Robert McCloskey (‘Make Way for Ducklings,’ ‘Blueberries for Sal’), raised private funds and partnered with community and city organizations that things really took off,” the American Library Association stated in a prepared release. “By mounting a campaign to promote the exhibit in multiple venues and formats, new cardholder, visitor and circulation numbers all exceeded 2019 levels and the library received local, statewide and national media attention.”

The award is named after John Cotton Dana (1859–1929), the father of the modern library, who is credited with helping transition libraries from reading rooms to community centers, according to the ALA. Award winners receive a cash development award from the H.W. Wilson Foundation. The John Cotton Dana Awards will be presented during an awards ceremony hosted by EBSCO Information Services held during this year’s ALA Annual Conference from June 27 through July 2.

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