The creative programming and community partnerships fostered by Gail Borden Public Library in Elgin has earned its executive director a statewide award.
Carole Medal, who has worked in Elgin since 2004, recently was named Librarian of the Year by the Illinois Library Association.
Medal was among five nominees for the award, said ILA awards committee co-chair Nicole Wilhelms, who works as adult and teen services manager at the Downers Grove Public Library. Medal served as ILA president in 2009.
"She really just exemplifies having the library as a community hub and being connected to the community," Wilhelms said. "They have done a lot of fascinating programs."
The Elgin library has hosted several successful exhibits, including Giants: African Dinosaurs in 2005, Space: Dare to Dream in 2007, and SuperCroc last summer.
The inclusion in the space exhibit of a live conversation between local students and an astronaut on the International Space Station was particularly impressive, Wilhelms said. "We thought that was pretty awesome," she said.
She also pointed to the library's summer reading programs and the environmentally friendly Rakow branch.
"(Medal) has really been able to bring their library into the 21st century," she said.
Medal, of Arlington Heights, said her goal has always been to use the library "to the nth degree."
She previously worked as division chief at Harold Washington Library Center in Chicago and executive director at Rolling Meadows Library.
"I wanted to get people in here through programs, through partnerships, because it's a wonderful facility," Medal said. "I said, 'It's not just a place to house books, it will become a community center.' "
For example, the library holds free monthly concerts of jazz and classical music, and a summer reading program for children and adults whose participation continues to grow each year, Medal said.
Registered library cards have grown by 40 percent under Medal's guidance, from 85,415 in 2004 to 119,316 in 2013.
"Libraries used to be measured by the size of their collection and circulation. Now it's so much more -- it's how many people we touch for various things," she said.
Keeping a library in the 21st century is a constant work in progress, Medal said. "Relevancy changes daily. We have to keep on our toes here. and the community helps us."
Nominations for ILA's 2014 awards are open. Anyone can submit nominations. To do so, visit ila.org/about-ila/ila-awards.