- Associated Press - Sunday, July 27, 2014

KENAI, Alaska (AP) - The children’s program at the Kenai Community Library is one of the many reasons that have made the Kenai Community Library one of six institutions in the state nominated for a national service award.

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski included Kenai on a short list for the National Medal for Museum and Library Service, an award that recognizes places that make significant contributions to their communities. According to a press release from Murkowski’s office, selected institutions demonstrate extraordinary and innovative approaches to public service, exceeding levels of community outreach.

Kenai Library Director Mary Jo Joiner said being nominated for such a prestigious award is an honor.

“I am thrilled Sen. Murkowski included us among such great civic centers around the state,” Joiner said. “It is nice to get recognized and would be fabulous if we received national recognition for being a small library.”

Joiner said other services that led to the nomination include the taxpayer advocate service, which allows library users to talk person-to-person with a tax preparer. Library users who had questions during tax season had an opportunity to work with someone through a webcam thanks to a federally funded government program.

Another program that benefited the community involved trained healthcare staff brought in to help people sign up for the Affordable Care Act prior to the government healthcare website launch last October. Joiner said when people had trouble accessing the website will all its technical difficulties, people were on hand to answer questions and get people signed up.

Joiner said the library is involved in other community partnerships like working with the Totem Tracers genealogical research group. The newer libraries all around the Kenai Peninsula like Soldotna, Homer and Seward all offer their own interesting programs that benefit their community, she said.

“We offer a unique variety of services that are not easily available outside of big cities,” she said. “With all the new libraries on the peninsula it shows a lot of community support and interest in libraries.”

A new feature introduced this year for library users is the self-check out stations, thanks contributions from the Friends of the Library and a Rasmuson Foundation grant that totaled $10,000. Joiner said the self-check stations are easy to use and offer an extra level of privacy to patrons.

Last week, a superhero themed craft where participants could make their own costumes took place at the Kenai Community Library. The library will played a movie that was in line with the superhero themed week. Joiner said Batman is a perennial favorite among the kids.

The Kenai Community library will host a science themed party on Aug. 1 that culminates with the completion of the summer reading program. The program has about 150 to 200 kids and encourages kids to keep reading book when they are out of school to maintain their progress.

Joiner said all the community libraries and museums nominated all have great programs for kids and adults.

“There is some stiff competition,” she said.

The deadline to apply for the national award is October 15. The winning institution will be presented with a monetary award and recognized at a Washington D.C. ceremony.

The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 123,000 libraries and 35,000 museums, according to the release.

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