Wednesday, March 2, 2016

O'Tis a Rather Big Deal

I don't pretend to know how many planes land safely and successfully at airports in this country on any given day but we all know that the ones which don't are the ones that end up on TV newscasts and in newspapers, above the fold.

That same kind of thing is true about a lot of goods and services we take for granted wherever we live. So much machinery inside our scenery, doing good work without fanfare or fuss is, fairly or not, really a shared expectation many of us have about the various threads that make up the fabric of our lives.

You can be forgiven for not fully appreciating the honor bestowed upon the Otis Library last week from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the 2016 National Medal.

The Institute is pretty much the last word when you're talking about serious reviews and critical evaluations. They are the primary source of federal support for over 120,000 libraries and 35,000 museums. Their list makes Facebook likes and Yelp reviews seem a bit pale.

For those of us who frequent the library, it was a more quiet, good news story than a cry to "stop the presses!" though regional newspaper coverage was quite extensive with the Bulletin doing a really nice story on the achievement.

It's the second straight year the Otis Library has made the medals' list and it should be both a source of pride for all of us who possess a library card (and if you don't, you can get one for free; so now what's your excuse to not have one?) as well another reason to be happy to live in a city whose library is mentioned in the same breath with New York's Whitney Museum of Art, the Chicago History Museum and the Dallas Holocaust Museum.

And if you're still not impressed (what is wrong with you?), five museums and libraries across all of New England made the list, with three in Massachusetts and one in Rhode Island. By my math, that means Otis is the only one in Connecticut. Sorta stands that whole 'why can't Norwich be more like.....(insert another city name here)' argument on its head. But people keep making it anyway.

A total of thirty libraries and museums nationally made the 2016 honors list and that, in turn, will be culled to a Top Ten later this Spring. All honorees were recognized for advancing innovation and lifelong learning as well as cultural and civic engagement.

If the only thing you know about Otis is the Friends of Otis Library's twice a year book sales (and the spring sale will be here before you know it, but not before I do), you have some catching up to do. Why not check out their YouTube channel or their program for free local attractions passes, for starters.

You'll soon understand why Henry Ward Beecher could have been describing Otis when insisting "a library is not a luxury but one of the necessities of life."
-bill kenny

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