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Innovations

About the Innovations Initiative

Applications for the 2024 Innovations Initiative will open on Monday, June 17, 2024. Please stay tuned to ULC's social media and newsletters for more information.


Starting in 2010, ULC's awards program has recognized and raised the visibility of cutting-edge programs, strategies, tools, techniques and ideas from ULC’s entire membership.

ULC's annual Innovations Initiative showcases out-of-the-box thinking and successful library programs that revolutionize the field. Through each year’s submissions, ULC members share groundbreaking projects that build awareness of the library, further education for people of all ages, address inclusion and digital equity, prioritize health and wellness, enhance strategic internal operations and staff management, and champion the importance of workforce and economic development.

Search Our Database of Innovations Using These Filters:

Learn More About our Categories

Advocacy and Awareness

Share your library's innovations that increase the awareness and importance of the library and its many programs, such as the right to read freely, civic engagement resources, and the library’s overall role as a community hub.

Examples of library projects to highlight in an application include:

  • Storytelling and how you communicate the impact of library services and programs in the community to external audiences.
  • Partnerships that enhance the library's reach to under-resourced audiences.
  • Strategic brand extensions and rebranding initiatives.
  • Advocacy or fundraising campaigns.
  • Initiatives that build policies and actions around democracy and intellectual freedom in our communities.
  • Civic engagement and voter education and/or services.
  • Programming to support civility, kindness and communities working together.
Education: Children and Adults

Share your library's innovations that increase access to high-quality learning opportunities for all children and adults, such as how the library advances personal and family learning goals and develop literacy in all forms, for all ages.

Examples of library projects to highlight in an application include:

  • Education and community engagement partnerships with PK-12 school leaders, school districts and community organizations.
  • Summer Learning programs, as well as youth mentorship, internship and leadership initiatives for teens and young adults.
  • Trauma-informed programming, caregiver workshops and learning circles.
  • Adult education for reading, media, digital, financial and other types of literacy.
Equity and Inclusion

Share your library's innovations that address structural racism, systemic and digital inequity and social justice within the library and across the community.

Examples of library projects to highlight in an application include:

  • Community engagement initiatives, partnerships and programming regarding systemic racism and social justice.
  • Anti-racism, equity, diversity and inclusion embedded in strategic planning.
  • Organizing for anti-racism, equity, diversity and inclusion outcomes.
  • Anti-racist audits of library operations.
  • Partnerships to bring high-speed broadband directly to all households to support community-wide digital literacy and access.
Health and Wellness

Share your library's innovations that help library staff and customers better understand and make informed decisions about personal and public health issues. This can be accomplished through educational programs, social services/partnerships, mental health services, and other holistic wellness programming.

Examples of library projects to highlight in an application include:

  • Programming and community engagement partnerships to support customer well-being.
  • Mental health resources and support for staff dealing with trauma in the library and/or through lived experience.
  • Programs and partnerships to address public health and public safety.
Library Operations and Management

Share your library's innovations that advance the operations, strategy and culture of the system. This can be accomplished through thoughtful decision-making, safety and security strategy, organizational change, leadership trainings, performance management and reporting, impact assessment and all-around process improvements.

Examples of library projects to highlight in an application include:

  • Internal/crisis communications systems and tools.
  • Staff programming for well-being and professional development.
  • Leadership and organization benchmarking and strategic planning.
  • Strategic planning informed by data collection and community engagement.
  • Data-driven evaluation and impact assessment systems.
  • Administration of business practices to create the highest level of efficiency possible within an organization.
  • Facility changes to reduce carbon emissions and enhance energy efficiencies.
Workforce and Economic Development

Share your library's innovations that promote equitable economic mobility and opportunity for all local workers, jobseekers, entrepreneurs and business owners.

Examples of library projects to highlight in an application include:

  • Entrepreneurship and advanced digital skill-building.
  • Professional coaching and certification programs.
  • Business challenges and fellowships.
  • STEM as a career path.
2024 Innovations Categories

2024 Categories Brochure

This brochure provides an overview of the 2024 Innovations submission categories. An independent panel of judges will select Top Innovator and Honorable Mention award winners in each category, and winners will be announced this fall.

2023 Innovations Winners Brochure

2023 Innovations Winners Brochure

Read our 2023 Innovations Brochure to learn more about the member libraries selected as Top Innovators and Honorable Mentions from among the entries submitted to the 2021 ULC Innovations Initiative!

Rewatch the 2023 ULC Innovations Initiative Celebration

Originally broadcast on 4/27/2023, this virtual event celebrated the award winners for ULC's annual Innovations Initiative! This year’s virtual program showcased the year’s Top Innovators and Honorable Mentions, with special video highlights of each Top Innovators. Attendees heard from ULC’s President and CEO Brooks Rainwater and got a special announcement from Seattle Public Library Chief Librarian Tom Fay.

Read our 2021 Innovations Brochure to learn more about the member libraries selected as Top Innovators and Honorable Mentions from among the entries submitted to the 2021 ULC Innovations Initiative!

2023 Top Innovators

Mobile Newsrooms in Libraries | Louisville Free Public Library

Advocacy & Awareness | 2023 | Top Innovator

Cell Phone Lending Program | Las Vegas-Clark County Library District

Anti-Racism, Digital Equity & Inclusion | 2023 | Top Innovator

Data-Driven Support for Equity in Budgets | Dallas Public Library

Data & Performance Management | 2023 | Top Innovator

"Rock Banned" Intellectual Freedom Campaign | Prince George's County Memorial Library System

Democracy | 2023 | Top Innovator

The World of Work for Teens | Queens Public Library

Education: Children & Adults | 2023 | Top Innovator

A Library That Reinforces Community + Wellness | Cambridge Public Library

Health & Wellness | 2023 | Top Innovator

Request It: Collaborative Acquisitions | Kansas City Public Library

Operations & Management | 2023 | Top Innovator

Be a Successful Street Vendor | Los Angeles Public Library

Workforce & Economic Development | 2023 | Top Innovator