Craig County Public Library, New Castle, Virginia, Wins ALA’s First PRH Award for Innovation Through Adversity Award

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The Craig County Public Library, New Castle, Virginia, has been named the 2019 winner of the ALA’s first Penguin Random House Award for Innovation Through Adversity Award. The award, supported by the Penguin Random House Foundation, recognizes U.S. libraries and staff who overcome adversity and create lasting innovative community service programs that successfully inspire and connect with new readers.

The Craig County Public Library is being honored for their program Barn Quilts for Books. This tiny library is only 30 x 40 square feet and has the lowest per capita expenditure by local government of any library in the state of Virginia. Volunteers play a critical role within the library.

What started as an art project for the library has grown into an important economic partnership between the Library and the Craig County Tourism board. Local artist and former library board member Martha Dillard created the Barns Quilts for Books Program to bring additional revenue and attention to the library. Realizing that additional funding for materials and programming would bring in new users and provide a steady stream of income, the ambitious project was begun.

Martha asked area residents about the history of their farms and what kind of quilt patterns they loved. While the term ‘barn quilt’ seemingly implies the need for a large dairy, horse, or hay barn, this just isn’t the case. This traditional art could be featured on smaller outbuildings like sheds, fences or as yard signs. Sponsors choose patterns that honor a special individual or memorialize a favorite family tradition or heirloom quilt. Others choose designs that speak to work or hobbies. Some just like the appeal of a certain design. Prices ranged from $125 to $450.

As beautiful barn art popped up all over the county, the demand rose accompanied by family stories and their deep roots in the county. All the funds from painting the barn quilts went to the library. Soon the Barn Quilts for Books Trail became a local tourist attraction with maps being produced and Martha leading bus tours and sharing the history behind each quilt. All bringing more folks into the library. Students at the local high school are working on a barn quilt for the library’s “used book barn.”

The program has raised over $10,000 for the library, as well as celebrating local history. Due to the success of the program, the library is now planning an expansion which will be home to the local visitors center.

The learn more about the program go to

The annual award, consisting of $10,000 and a citation of achievement, will be presented at the ALA Annual Conference in Washington, D.C. in June.

The Penguin Random House Foundation has also generously funded five runner-up awards consisting of $1,000 worth of materials for each of the libraries. The runners up are: PS11X the Highbridge School, NY, NY; Long Branch Free Public Library, Long Branch, New Jersey; Kansas City Public Library, Kansas City, Kansas; John G. McCullough Free Library, Bennington, Vermont; and the Northwest Regional Library System, Port St. Joe, Florida.

Posted: May 2, 2019