A sign made by children which reads "Bienvenidos a Pinewoods" which means "Welcome to Pinewoods"

Pinewoods Library and Learning Center, a branch of the Athens Regional Library System, has been recognized as a finalist for Library Journal's 2009 Best Small Library in America, an annual award sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Pinewoods Library was one of the top three libraries out of more than 60 nominated institutions across the United States. The award went to Union County Carnegie Library in Union, S.C. The other finalist library is Weippe Public Library in Weippe, Idaho. Now in its fifth year, the annual award showcases libraries providing outstanding service to populations of 25,000 or less.

"Pinewoods Library is a microcosm of everything offered at each of our libraries," says Kathryn Ames, Athens Regional Library System director. "For this branch to be recognized as one of the top three small libraries nationwide speaks highly of our system as a whole."

The computer lab at Pinewoods

Pinewoods Library is a specialized branch that provides adult education including English as a Second Language classes, family literacy activities and afterschool tutoring. The branch, which is located in a doublewide trailer in the Pinewoods North Mobile Home Park on U.S. Highway 29 North, has 16 public access computers and provides access to the PINES system and GALILEO databases. The branch has one full-time employee, two part-time employees, and a cadre of dedicated volunteers.

The branch was first intended to serve the 2,000 residents of the mobile home park where it is located. However, the library has grown to serve as the resource and information center for the nearly 18,000 Hispanic immigrants who live in the county. Pinewoods Library is often the first stop for many new immigrants where they learn English and computer skills, along with discovering library services.

Children showing off a home-made banner.

Library Journal's annual contest is judged by members of the publication's editorial board, librarians from around the country and a representative from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation based on criteria including technology use, outreach, support from community agencies and businesses, evidence of the library’s role as a community center and more.

The winning library received a $15,000 cash award, membership and conference costs for two library representatives to attend the Public Library Association Biannual Conference in 2010 in Portland, Ore. The other two finalist libraries were awarded with membership and conference costs for two library representatives to attend the PLA conference.

Pinewoods Library is one of five library branches in Athens-Clarke County and part of the 11-branch, five-county Athens Regional Library System.

Vist the Library Journal's article about the award: Library Journal Article

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