Los Angeles Public Library wins top award for cultural institutions

 Los Angeles Public Library

Los Angeles City Councilman Tom LaBonge unveils a historic monument at the Memorial Branch Library on June 24, 2013.

(Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times)

The Los Angeles Public Library has won a National Medal for Museum and Library Service, the most prestigious award for libraries and museums, given yearly to 10 cultural institutions.

The L.A. institution was the only California library this year to win the medal, given by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).

The Los Angeles library system was chosen “for its success in meeting the needs of Angelenos and providing a high level of social, educational and cultural services,” according to a news release from the institute. The system includes 73 libraries and more than 6 million books.



For the Record

April 24, 1:30 p.m. An earlier version of this post misquoted the news release from the institute, saying the library was chosen “for its success in meeting the needs of IMLS.”



Mayor Eric Garcetti thanked the IMLS for the medal. “When library staff connect Angelenos with resources to pursue citizenship, access healthcare or find employment, that is true customer service in action,” Garcetti said. “Our libraries improve lives every day, and this National Medal is well-deserved.”

Rep. Xavier Becerra, a Democrat whose district includes downtown Los Angeles, credited city librarian John Szabo for his “superb leadership” of the library. “I join the people of our great city in congratulating John and the hard-working staff of the Los Angeles Public Library system for earning this most prestigious award,” Becerra said in a statement.

Szabo became city librarian in 2012, appointed by then-Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. "My father would drop me at the library while he played in a bowling league,” Szabo told The Times that year. “I loved this space where I could explore every subject under the sun. But I was also fascinated by what went on behind the circulation desk.”

Szabo will accept the award on behalf of the library at a ceremony in Washington in May.

The Los Angeles Public Library joins three other Southern California cultural institutions that have won the medal in recent years. In 2010, the award was given to the Japanese American National Museum in the Little Tokyo district of Los Angeles. Santa Ana’s Discovery Science Center (now called Discovery Cube Orange County) and the Rancho Cucamonga Public Library won medals in 2013.

The nine other recipients of this year’s medals are: Amazement Square in Lynchburg, Va.; Cecil County Public Library in Elkton, Md.; Craig Public Library in Craig, Alaska; Embudo Valley Library and Community Center in Dixon, N.M.; Louisiana Children’s Museum in New Orleans; Museum of Northern Arizona in Flagstaff; New York Hall of Science in Queens; the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York City; and the Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose.