LUDLOW — Hubbard Memorial Library will be honored as the first recipient in 2024 of MiraVista Behavioral Health Center’s You Have Our adMIRAtion Award on Thursday, Feb. 22 at noon. The ceremony will take place in the library’s Program Room at 24 Center St. in Ludlow.
The public library, housed in a building gifted to the town in 1888 by the Hubbard family in memory of Charles Hubbard, founder of Ludlow Manufacturing Co., is being honored in particular for its programs that serve the town’s children under July Siebecker, head of Youth Services at Hubbard Memorial and a 27-year staff member there.
“July has introduced and facilitated innovative programs that go beyond traditional reading activities,” said Kimberley Lee, chief of Creative Strategy and Development at MiraVista Behavioral Health Center in Holyoke. “From storytelling sessions that explore themes of empathy and resilience to arts and crafts activities that encourage self-expression, she has curated a diverse range of activities that address the holistic well-being of our young community members.”
The psychiatric hospital, which treats mental and behavioral health conditions in adults and teens ages 13 through 17 and has just renovated its adolescent unit, created its adMIRAtion Award to honor organizations and individuals that help foster connectedness and community in their cities and towns.
Lee added that libraries can be where young people discover lifelong interests and the possibility of career pursuits.
“This type of engagement is particularly important as addressing the mental-health needs of our young people in the wake of their isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic has been a number-one priority across the country,” said Lee, adding that the award ceremony will include brief remarks by library staff, civic leaders, and youth volunteers. “The activities offered at Hubbard Memorial connect young people to each other, their community, and learning in a supportive environment.”
Hubbard Memorial Library interim Director Melissa Rickson said she is “very pleased” for the library to be so honored, adding, “I think sometimes that people do not realize that libraries are more than books, and this award highlights how the services we provide impact people.”
She said the library’s mission “matches the heart of MiraVista’s award” in creating community with a small staff of 10, including three part-timers, serving thousands of patrons each year. “We bring together community members of all ages. We have wonderful programs for every age group. These programs include programs for seniors, a general adult audience, teens, children, toddlers, and babies. People look forward to returning to the library to participate in events and socialize with the other attendees.”
Rickson described the Youth Services staff as doing a “spectacular job in welcoming our young community members,” adding that “it is wonderful to see children and teens come into the library. It goes beyond them finding a book. They get an important social connection to an adult community member who is outside their household, who often serves as a mentor.”
Rickson’s words were echoed by Siebecker in her work with the library’s young patrons, who are offered programs ranging from book clubs to gaming clubs to a youth volunteer program that allows middle- and high-schoolers to work one hour a week in the Youth Room.
“Providing a safe space is at the core of our mission in working with tweens and teens,” Siebecker said. “Because we offer a lot of programs that happen weekly, we are able to get to know many of our tween and teen patrons. We prioritize lending an ear if they want to talk, and ask for their feedback as well; many of our ideas for programs come from the kids themselves.”
Siebecker said that “a lot of people are involved,” including her assistant, Kristin Santos, in supporting the programs and encouraging teens to take leadership roles in them.
“One thing that is unique about public library programs for young adults is that they allow homeschooled kids, students from both public and private schools, and even from different towns to connect with one another. We are open to all, and that gives kids who might feel alone a broader base in which to find their tribe.”
Previous recipients of the adMIRAtion Award include William N. DeBerry Elementary School in Springfield, Sober Chef owner Chris Bland, and Western Mass. college student and picture-book author Isabella “Izy” Hess.