In a year where so many businesses (including libraries) had to close (temporarily or permanently) or shift the way they operated for the safety of patrons and the community, it's been a rare feat for one library in Iowa to be able to expand their services, and the Library of Congress in Washington recently took notice. The Iowa Library for the Blind and Print Disabled in Des Moines was named the institution's Library of the Year.

Service is key, perhaps more for this library than any other

The name alone tells you its target audience and visitor base, and the award is based on the added challenges its staff and volunteers have met successfully over the past year. Director Sarah Willeford says in the Des Moines Register, the Iowa Library for the Blind has 6,000 registered patrons. A staff of 14 and roughly 3 dozen volunteers quickly pivoted at the start of the pandemic to divvy out the time they'd rotate working on-site at the library for a clientele needing the in-person touch more than most. All of their services are free to any Iowan who is blind, or people who have a visual, physical, or reading disability that prevents the use of standard printed materials.

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What does the award entail?

The Iowa Library of the Blind receives $1,000 to put toward its services, along with a commemorative plaque. Employees will eventually get to attend a ceremony at the Library of Congress, but in the meantime, a virtual ceremony will be held.

Can I get involved with this great organization?

Volunteer opportunities include "IDB Reads" which generally involves recording what are essentially personal books-on-tape to be delivered to patrons. Their volunteers are currently reading books live over the phone to patrons and hosting discussion groups. If you'd like to volunteer, donate or learn more, you can visit the Iowa Library for the Blind's Friends website.

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