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'Anythink' library district wins highest honor for libraries

November 17, 2010 |  2:28 pm

Pam

Rangeview, Colo.'s Anythink library system, which The Times profiled as part of its "Future of Reading" series, is one of five U.S. libraries to win the 2010 National Medal for Museum and Library Service, the nation's highest honor for libraries.

The Institute of Museum and Library Services, which awards the medal each year, praised the winners for "serving their communities with innovative and creative new approaches to lifelong learning."

Rangeview appeared in a Times story last Friday that detailed its maverick attitude toward many traditional features of libraries: The district got rid of the Dewey Decimal System, overdue-book fines and reference desks and put in game rooms, big-screen TVs and cafes.

"It's a departure from books," Pam Sandlian-Smith, Anythink's director, said this past summer. "Our emphasis is on creative activity between people and information -- we connect people with ideas."

A few years ago, Rangeview had the worst-funded urban library system in Colorado. Its drab branches were poorly lighted, crumbling and crammed with obsolete books. Less than 10% of the community's population had library cards. If not for a last-minute measure to raise ­property taxes, its libraries were in danger of being shut down.

But more than $40 million and four new branches later, the library is flourishing and gaining wide notice in the library world, where leaders are struggling to chart a course into a digital future in which printed books may no longer define the library experience.

"Many of our winners have evolved and grown despite tremendous challenges -– all to empower and enrich the lives of their community members by cultivating collaboration and openness," said IMLS Acting Director Marsha L. Semmel. "I am deeply appreciative of their efforts to make a difference. They serve as the nation’s role models."

The winners will receive their awards, and a $10,000 prize, at an upcoming ceremony in Washington.

RELATED:

Photo gallery of Anythink libraries

Libraries reinvent themselves in a digtal age

Electronic reading devices are transforming the concept of a book

-- David Sarno

Photo: Pam Sandlian-Smith, director of the Rangeview library system. Credit: David Sarno / Los Angeles Times

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