The Deerfield Public Library is the proud recipient of the American Library Association’s prestigious John Cotton Dana Library Public Relations Award. The award recognizes “The Fight to Integrate Deerfield: 60 Year Reflection,” a months-long initiative exploring a significant period in our local history, and its lasting impact. 

The year 2019 marked the 60th anniversary of Deerfield residents blocking a proposed racially integrated housing development from the Village, which resulted in years of protest and legal battles that attracted the attention of Martin Luther King, Jr., James Baldwin, and Eleanor Roosevelt and highlighted the struggle for civil rights in the North. Renewed local interest coincided with new books, articles, and discoveries about this history, as well as a broader national interest in integration issues. 

Library staff worked with residents, historians, and local educators to provide new resources and insights into this history. This included a series of special presentations, an in-house exhibit, podcasts and videos, and the creation of a dedicated website and digital archive providing open access to important historical documents for current and future generations. The project also included partnering with Deerfield schools to enhance existing curriculum, and it has also served as a springboard for new community initiatives. 

With the Library now open for limited hours, visitors are invited to explore the display exhibit located on the lower level. In addition to historical documents, the exhibit features photos by Art Shay. Additional exhibit photos are located in the front lobby and the Youth Services department. Shay, an award-winning photographer for magazines including Life, Time, and Sports Illustrated, lived in Deerfield for most of his life.

The John Cotton Dana Award recognizes excellence for marketing and public relations in the library industry. Eight recipients each received a $10,000 grant provided by the H.W. Wilson Foundation and EBSCO, and managed by the Library Leadership and Management Association division of the American Library Association.