December 16, 2017

Best Small Library in America Award Nomination Guidelines

Library Journal‘s annual award for the Best Small Library in America is returning, with the support of sustaining sponsor Junior Library Guild (a division of Library Journal’s parent company, Media Source, Inc.). The award, founded to encourage and showcase the exemplary work of these libraries, is now in its 12th round. It honors the U.S. public library that most profoundly demonstrates outstanding service to populations of 25,000 or less (see below for eligibility requirements).

The winning library will receive a $5,000 cash award, a feature story in the September 15, 2018 Library Journal, and online coverage. Two finalist libraries will be awarded $1,000 worth of JLG products and services, and special mention in Library Journal.

Judges will evaluate nominations based on key factors, including:

  • • Innovation in developing services and programs that can be replicated by other libraries, including outreach to underserved populations
    • Success in educating patrons in computer use and other new technologies, expanding the reach of library services via technology, and measuring the outcomes of technology usage
    • Creativity in addressing literacy (or multiple literacies, such as digital literacy, information literacy, etc.) across patrons of all ages, including programs focused on early literacy and school readiness (please evidence of impact/outcomes where available)
    • Demonstrated community support
    • Sustained cooperation and partnership with other libraries, schools, other agencies, and businesses.
    • Increase in library use, particularly by new users
    • Evidence of library’s role as community center

Keeping the factors above in mind, please tell us how, in the last two years, you have raised the profile of the library in your community, reached out to new users and remote users, impacted literacy in the community, and used technology to support and grow patron access to materials and information. Please highlight innovative approaches to traditional problems, including seemingly small fixes that work. And, please highlight specific innovations that can be readily adopted by other libraries of all sizes.

Nominators are encouraged to reach out for guidance while developing nominations. Please do so by contacting Meredith Schwartz at

Anyone can nominate a library—the library administration itself, patrons, members of the community, library peers, etc.

  1. There is no entry fee, but each entry must include the following information:
    Name, address, phone number, and email of nominee and the name of the contact person, as well as contact information for the submitter if different from the nominee.
  2. A written explanation of up to two pages (or a list of bulleted narrative points) that clearly enumerates how the library’s accomplishments fit the criteria for the award listed above. (Note: Entries that describe programs and their effects on the community will be especially helpful to the judges in rendering a decision. Supporting materials, such as brochures, testimonials, press clippings, etc., may be included and are helpful, but they are less important than the written narrative.)
  3. Photo(s) of library, staff, and patrons, if possible.
  4. Letters of reference from two library peers. (A library peer is someone who is knowledgeable about libraries in general and knows the nominated library well, but who is not employed by or affiliated with the library in any capacity. Examples include librarians at neighboring libraries or colleagues at the state association or the state library.)
  5. Statistical data. On a separate sheet of paper please supply the following information:
    • Population served
    • Total annual budget (if you are part of another body of government, note if you pay utility bills, IT, etc.)
    • Per capita budget
    • Circulation (break out e-use if collecting this data)
    • Materials budget (including electronic databases)
    • Physical visits (door count)
    • Virtual visits
    • Number of public access computers per population served
    • Number of days and hours of service per week
    • Number of staff
    • Percentage of staff who are professional librarians.

Most libraries collect this data, but if you do not have all of these statistics, then submit those the library does have. Also, please detail whether the nominated library is a member of a consortium/county-wide service district—what services are provided by it (technology support, training, databases, etc.), what role does the library play in it?



  • • A public library serving a community with a population of 25,000 or less as of the most recent U.S. Census.
    • A branch or mobile outreach initiative that serves a distinct population of 25,000 or less, even if it is part of a larger town, county, or district library system. The prize monies must be used only for the benefit of the population under 25,000.

Not eligible:

  • • A single community library serving a population greater than 25,000 and not providing service to a rural area or to a rural community is not eligible for the award.
    • Previous winners are not eligible. Previous finalists are eligible to reapply three years after their finalist year (for example, a library honored as a finalist in the 2015 award year is eligible again for the 2018 award year).


Electronic submissions via email are preferred. Send a Word document or PDF, or (for files totaling 10 MB or larger) a link to a folder in a cloud-based file-sharing service such as DropBox or Google Drive to Meredith Schwartz at

Or mail nominations to:
Best Small Library in America Award
Library Journal
123 William St. Suite 802
New York, NY 10038

If you are using a file sharing service, please make sure your files are viewable to others, so they can be shared with the judges.

If you have any questions regarding the submission process, please contact Meredith Schwartz at or by phone at 646.380.0745.

A free webcast series presented by Library Journal and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Providing exceptional library service on a small library budget and staff size presents special challenges, but also unique opportunities to meet core community needs. In this new webcast series, a combination of live and on-demand presentations funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, winners and runners up from a decade of LJ’s Best Small Libraries in America award, plus other rural and small library voices, will share hands-on, real-world tested expertise.

Moderated by Kristi Chadwick, Small Libraries Advisor to the Massachusetts Library System, registration is now open.