Patrons leave the Ketchikan Public Library on a winter day. (KRBD file photo by Leila Kheiry)

The Ketchikan Public Library is a finalist for a big national award. The Institute of Museum and Library Services announced Monday morning that Ketchikan’s library is one of 29 museums and libraries across the United States chosen as finalists for the National Medal for Museum and Library Services.

The medal is the highest honor for a museum or library to receive. It celebrates institutions that show extraordinary and innovative approaches, and make a difference to individuals and their communities, according to the announcement.

Ketchikan Library Director Pat Tully said she learned they were a finalist  about two weeks ago, and it was tough keeping it a secret.

“Now we can actually talk about the award and how we were nominated,” she said.

Tully said Ketchikan’s library was nominated last fall by Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who had visited the library earlier that summer for a special event.

Ketchikan Public Library Director Pat Tully. (KRBD file photo)

“She and her aides had heard about some of our activities, including our upcoming community garden – children’s community garden,” she said. “They were very impressed. A few months after that, we got notification that she had nominated us.”

Tully said local officials and residents then sent letters in support of that nomination. She said she’s not sure whether any specific program or service led to becoming a finalist.

“There was a very long application form, there was a narrative that had to speak to certain questions about our activities and events, and how we interact with the community. There was a lot that we actually provided to them,” she said. “We didn’t hear anything more than: ‘You’ve been selected as a finalist.’”

Which is, of course, great.

Now that the finalists have been announced, there’s a six-week process to narrow a field of 29 down to 10 medal winners. Tully said each finalist has a day to be featured on the Institute of Museum and Library Services website and social media.

“And they’re going to be encouraging people to share their stories about how the particular library or institution befitted them,” she said.  

Ketchikan’s library will be featured on Wednesday, March 7. Tully encourages community members to participate.

Study and computer space at the Ketchikan Public Library. (KRBD file photo)

“We’re really grateful. We have a tremendously supportive community and wonderful users who are very appreciative, and we appreciate them so much,” she said.  

Tully said the library will provide instructions on how to participate through its website and social media. In a nutshell, though, post your thoughts on a social media option of your choice, with a special hashtag:

“The hashtag is #shareyourstory, all one word,” Tully said.

That hashtag will work on Twitter and Facebook, but make sure it’s a public post so it can be seen by Institute officials.

Tully said whether or not Ketchikan wins, she’s excited the library is a finalist, and getting well-deserved national recognition. She stressed that former and current staff, and the entire community contributed to that recognition.

“All of the people in the city and borough government, and residents, also contribute toward making the library successful,” she said.

Winners will be announced in late April. An awards ceremony for those winners will be May 24 in Washington, D.C.

Craig Public Library on Prince of Wales Island won the National Medal for Museum and Library Services in 2015.