Cabell County Public Library honored for community impact

The Cabell County Public Library is recognized for its service to the Huntington community with the passage of Senate Resolution 36 on Friday reading, “Recognizing Cabell County Public Library on being named as finalist for 2021 National Medal for Museum and Library Service.”

Judy K. Rule, the Director of the Cabell County Public Library, said the award is the highest honor awarded to museums and libraries in the United States.

“We are so excited, and we think that to be finalists is a great honor,” Rule said. “COSI in Ohio is a finalist in the museum category, the Cincinnati museum is also a finalist in the museum category and we are the only ones in West Virginia this year.”
Rule said that 150 libraries and museums applied, 15 of each were chosen to be finalists, and the award is based not only upon the library’s performance that year, but the entirety of the work it has done.

“This national medal is for libraries that have made a difference in their community,” Rule said. “We feel like the Cabell County Public Library has made a difference in this community because of our Information and Referral because it is rather unique from libraries in West Virginia and even across the United States.”

Rule said the Information and Referral department was cultivated by former employee, Harmony Philips, the namesake of the local Harmony House shelter, who started the first public service database found on the library’s website.

“It has a listing of all the social service agencies in town or in Cabell and Wayne Counties,” Rule said. “You can go on that website, look under whatever agency you need, and it will not only tell you how to get in touch with them, but it will tell you the criteria for use of the of that facility.”

Rule said Branches, a domestic violence shelter, was founded after citizens seeking that service were left without an option when utilizing the library’s information and resource public service database.

“That’s how we made a change in the community – because part of the staff at Information and Resources worked towards establishing Branches, Harmony House and the food bank,” Rule said.

Rule said the library is special because they have had a social worker on staff for the past 40 years and it houses the Tri-State Literacy Council.

“Our staff is encouraged to be members of various organizations and to be active in the community,” Rule said.

Rule said herself and other members of the library staff are members of the local rotary clubs, as well as having a staff member that served on the Coalition for the Homeless.

“One of the things that we did recently with the pandemic is working with United Way when they got a grant from Appalachian Power to buy masks,” Rule said. “They had no way of distributing them, so they asked libraries to help, and we were we participated with them in that.”

Rule said the Cabell County Public Library was also among some of the first non-first responders that were trained how to administer Narcan.

“I have been here since September 5, 1967, well over 50 years, and I do plan to retire sometime later this year but I have promised that I will stay until Barboursville Library is built and so I will do what I said I would do,” Rule said. “It is getting time for this old girl to let some younger people take over, but I have enjoyed almost every minute of it.”

Rule says her favorite memory working at the library was when the community came together to help move books from the Carnegie Library to the Cabell County Public Library.
“We had around 600 volunteers from the community helping walk the books across the street and it was fantastic,” Rule said. “I felt like that was a major accomplishment.”

Rule said she is appreciative of the community’s support and says that the library is eager to give back.

“If you want me to tell you what kind of a person money bracket or whatever uses the library the most – I can’t. We have everybody,” Rule said. “We have people from the homeless shelter come in and we have a people who are well off of that have learned that they can borrow books instead of buying books – besides that if you buy them you have to do something with them, and they get to be a bit cumbersome.”

Rule said her favorite book is Harry and the terrible Whatzit by Duck Gackenbach, because reading to her younger relatives connected her love of books and the library to the future generation.

“We want [the library] to be a warm, welcoming place and I think that that [the staff] are so innovative,” Rule said. “I am not very creative myself, but I have got sense enough to hire creative people, and I think that we just have so many good things going on all the time.”

Sara Ramezani, Assistant Director for Popular Services, said she is excited for the programs the library has planned for this summer.

“There is always an adult summer reading program that is coordinated with the theme also seen in the youth programs, and adults can win prizes for reading books,” Ramezani said.

Ramezani said the library has tried very hard to adjust to the needs of the community amidst the pandemic.

“We have done a lot of virtual programs and had a few virtual events throughout the year on social media,” Ramezani said. “We are hoping step by step, little by little, we can have safe very small groups sometime after this summer or maybe an outdoor program.”

Ramezani said the library hosts educational events, craft nights, and features authors.

“We try to do things that people want to see in our libraries are relevant,” Ramezani said. “Any occasion that happens, we spotlight it and have events.”

Ramezani said she hopes to see more interaction between the university and Cabell County Public Library.

“I would like Marshall students to know that we are here and have many complementary services to the campus libraries and with a library card you can downloard books, music, movies, graphic novels and many other forms of media,” Ramezani said. “We have so much to offer and we are here to support our partners and do anything to satisfy their needs and help our community.”

Isabella Robinson can be contacted at [email protected]