Page Public Library wins 2023 Best Small Library in America Award

Page Public Library’s hard-working staff (left to right): Children’s Coordinator Seairah Combest, Reference Librarian Mikalah Lee, Library Assistant Candace Tsingine, Circulation Supervisor Mariendia Nezy, Circulation Specialist Cheryl Blake, Children’s Library Aide Dawnisia Nez, Circulation Assistant Markeisia Nez, Library Manager Debbie Winlock, Director of Community Engagement Lynn Cormier and Library Specialist Megan Marks.

Page Public Library has been named Library Journal’s 2023 Best Small Library in America. The prestigious annual award, sponsored by Ingram Content Group, was created in 2005 to recognize the exemplary work of libraries serving populations under 25,000. 

The Library Journal’s announcement of the award, released last week, cited the library’s “sustaining work” as a “lifeline” for the City of Page, “serving adults, students, and businesses in creative and critical ways.”

The announcement listed a number of library programs that go beyond the expected “book and media checkouts, expanded children’s and teen services, programming and outreach for the local senior center” – including an annual job fair in partnership with Coconino Community College and Courtyard by Marriott, early literacy classes, a food program, after-hours Nerf wars and other gaming events for teens, Movies in the Park, the Glen Canyon Conservancy lecture series, and outreach and programming for library patrons on the Navajo Nation, to name just a few.   

Library Manager Debbie Winlock said she’s amazed when she considers all the things the library has done.  

“I don’t really look at the overview when I’m doing things, I’m like month to month, and so when I look at the overview or the numbers, I’m like, ‘Wow, we did a lot.’ We’re still trying to do more, trying to find out more for the community,” Winlock said. 

Rather than conduct paper surveys to find out what the community wants from the library, she relies on word of mouth among community members. 

“When we go out to the events and activities that we do, our staff isn’t there just working, we’re also talking to the public and asking them questions and listening to them, so that’s how we get most of our programs,” Winlock said.  

The library is also often approached by organizations that have seen the work they do with other groups. “They know the work we do, so they tell other people and then other people will contact us and say, ‘Hey we want to be a resource for Page, how can we help?’ So, people are outreaching to us, too,” Winlock said. 

She said Page Public Library is honored to receive the Best Small Library in America Award, adding that it’s an even greater honor to be chosen out of so many other small libraries that also play a vital role in their community. 

“The award belongs to all of us,” Winlock said.

“The library cannot have accomplished so much without support from other city departments, such as Parks and Rec, Horseshoe Bend, Special Events, and also businesses, organizations, churches, schools, clubs, and city, county and state agencies – and, most importantly, our community. Together, we achieved this great honor. All of us have made important contributions to life in our city. Our work is far from over, but what we’ve accomplished together has made a difference in our community.” 

Lynne Cormier, the director of community engagement for the City of Page, said the award sets Page Public Library part from other libraries not only within Arizona but also nationally. She emphasized that what really differentiates the library is how hard Winlock and the nine-member staff works. 

“I am absolutely floored by the fact that they do as much as they do with as little as they have,” Cormier said, adding that it’s unusual to see a library play such a vital role in the growth and development of a community. 

“That’s exactly what’s happening here, to have Page Public Library so integrated into so many facets, regardless of whether it’s helping our elderly through our outreach or helping our children through Toys for Tots or being present at every event,” she said. 

Winlock said the library gets visitors from all over the country, even from other countries, who bring their children in for activities and then bring them back the next day because their kids are excited to finish their projects. 

“They say, ‘We’re coming back tomorrow because my kids didn’t finish their activities and they’re so excited about these things you’re doing at the library. We’ll be back tomorrow, we’re going to stay an extra day and we’ll be back tomorrow to do some of these activities with our kids,’” Winlock said. “We hear that quite often about our activities and our programs, especially for the children.” 

Cormier said that what many of Page’s library patrons think of as the norm is not the norm at libraries in other places.

“That’s the unusual part, is that people assume what is happening here is happening everywhere. I’m like, this is not the norm, and it’s funny how often we do hear that,” she said, adding, “This library has definitely embedded itself into our city’s development, our growth and our expansion. I’d like to see that continue for years to come. With Debbie here at the helm, I think that’s going to happen.”   

Winlock and Cormier will travel to the annual conference of the Association for Rural and Small Libraries in Wichita, Kansas, from Sept. 19-23, where they will officially receive the Best Small Library in America Award.

In the meantime, Page Public Library – which has been open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday – is increasing its services further by also opening on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. starting this month.

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