While it might be referred to fondly by some as “itty-bitty Fairmont City,” the village’s library services are anything but itty-bitty — a point proven this month when the facility took home a $10,000 international award.
Katie Heaton is the Fairmont City Library Center manager. She said she and her staff wrote the proposal for the 2017 LibraryAware Community Award, never thinking their small library had a chance at competing with libraries across the United States and Canada. The award recognizes a library or library system that has demonstrated its ability to make its community aware of what the library can do for it — and has delivered on that promise
“We were like ‘gosh, this sounds just like us — a community that is in tune with its library and a library that is in tune with its community,’” she said about the award’s description.
We were like ‘gosh, this sounds just like us — a community that is in tune with its library and a library that is in tune with its community.’
Katie Heaton, Fairmont City Library Center manager
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Heaton said everyone was surprised when they got the news the center took first place in early March.
Vicky Hart, the Mississippi Valley Library District executive director, plans to put the award money toward improving internet connectivity in the Fairmont City facility, 4444 Collinsville Road — as well as in the district’s other library in Collinsville.
“Our district will have the best internet available for all of our customers, and that’s really exciting,” Hart said. “It’s wonderful. So that’s kind of what we have earmarked the money for, and then whatever is left we will probably put into programming in Fairmont City.”
She said no matter what the leftover money is spent on, it’ll be used wisely.
“We are not your parents’ library — or your grandparents’ library — we are the library of the community, of the future, of what is needed,” Hart said. “It’s not so much books anymore, but the ability to fax internationally, the ability to get online and apply for a job.”
We are not your parents’ library — or your grandparents’ library — we are the library of the community, of the future, of what is needed. It’s not so much books anymore, but the ability to fax internationally, the ability to get online and apply for a job.
Vicky Hart, the Mississippi Valley Library District executive director
Fairmont City has a population of about 2,600 people and is made up largely of Spanish-speaking residents (between 70 to 80 percent). Hart and Heaton said that about 30 percent of the community is at or below the poverty level.
Heaton said what makes the library remarkable is its range of services and bilingual capabilities. Beyond basic programs, such as story time, the center offers its residents free bilingual tax help, English lessons for adults (with day care provided during lessons), an expansive teen initiative, a community 55-plus club, a community garden (that produced 473 pounds of food last year) and much more.
Heaton added that there is an internet service blackout in Fairmont City — residents can only get internet through satellite — so the need for access to Wi-Fi is greater than it might be in other communities, and several services focus around that need.
“The town is too small for everyone not to know the relationship that the library has with the town — because we know everybody and everybody knows the library,” Heaton said.
She said when people started asking about the award, it made perfect sense to them why the facility won.
Hart and Heaton said their best advice for libraries is to make sure the “flair” of a center’s services reflects the community as they are.
“It’s definitely the community being aware what a library can do for them,” Heaton said. “And a library making good on those promises.”