NLS Operations Alert


No. 21-37


DATE         :   May 11, 2021

TO             :   Network Libraries

FROM        :   Karen Keninger, Director

SUBJECT  :   NLS honors Iowa and Virginia Beach libraries



Congratulations to the Iowa Library for the Blind and Print Disabled in Des Moines, Iowa, recipient of the 2020–2021 NLS Regional Library of the Year Award, and the Bayside Area and Special Services Library in Virginia Beach, Virginia, recipient of the Subregional Library/Advisory and Outreach Center of the Year Award.


The two libraries were honored today at the biennial meeting of the Midlands/Western regional conferences, which is being held virtually.


“The programs and services the Iowa and Virginia Beach libraries offer are outstanding examples of the innovation and commitment seen throughout our network—not just during the past year of unique challenges, but every year since our founding in 1931,” NLS Director Karen Keninger said. “They exemplify our commitment to ensuring that all may read.”


The Iowa Library for the Blind and Print Disabled, led by Library Director Sarah Willeford, is a unit of the Iowa Department for the Blind. It served more than 5,700 registered patrons and circulated 411,899 braille and audio books, magazines, and other special-format items last year—never missing a day even as the pandemic forced most of its staff to work from home. Its fourteen staff members were supplemented by volunteers who gave nearly 5,000 hours of service.


The library kept in touch with its patrons virtually, through podcasts, blogs and YouTube. Its Instructional Materials Center provided accessible educational materials to more than one hundred students and helped them and their teachers transition to online learning. Recognizing that older patrons might feel isolated at home, library staff worked with volunteer narrators to set up a weekly program to read Westerns and mysteries over the phone and lead discussions with patrons. They also created virtual programs for young readers and their families. The library is one of six that is participating in a pilot test of NLS’s new refreshable braille display.


The Bayside Area and Special Services Library in Virginia Beach, led by Library Manager Susan Paddock, has nearly 700 registered patrons and circulated 29,855 items last year. The library puts a particular emphasis on outreach to the Virginia Beach community. Last year its staff members gave presentations to public library branches, the local Parkinson’s Association, and Library and Information Science graduate students at Old Dominion University, among other groups. Staff members serve on government boards that promote diversity and inclusion and advocate for people with disabilities. The library also partnered with local government to create accessible documents for training and development programs.


In a recorded message to the Midlands/Western regional meeting, Librarian of Congress Dr. Carla Hayden said the Iowa and Virginia Beach libraries “met the challenges of the past year with tenacity and creativity. When the world around them came to a stop, they kept moving forward, finding new ways to expand access and engage their readers and their communities.”


Each prize comes with a $1,000 award and a commemorative plaque. NLS looks forward to a time when we can resume the tradition of hosting the winning libraries at an awards luncheon at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC.


You can read more about the winning libraries at


For more information contact:

Pamela N. Davenport

Network Consultant

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