The Discovery Science Center and the Santa Ana Public Library are among 33 finalists for a top library and museum award, the Institute of Museum and Library Services announced Thursday.
The award, the National Medal for Museum and Library Services, is the nation’s highest honor available for facilities that demonstrate innovative approaches to public service and make a difference with families and communities, according to the institute’s website.
Anyone is able to nominate eligible libraries and museums; the winners are then chosen from the nomination process.
Heather Folmar, operations manager for the Santa Ana Public Library, said Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez nominated the library and the Discovery Science Center last fall.
In order for a library to be eligible for the award, they must be owned by local or state government, or a private nonprofit organization and reside within one of the 50 states.
The national medal is a token of appreciation to libraries and museums that enrich their community. Folmar added that their job at the library is to magnify and expand opportunities for children and to create as many as possible.
Folmar said what makes their library stand out from other libraries is their successful buddy program where they mentor younger children by reading, math and other subjects.
Folmar said that the “buddies” frequently grow up to be big buddies themselves.
“We have wonderful kids here and they’re getting opportunities that are very hard to come by in a community like this,” she said.
Eligibility requirements for museums are the same as libraries with additional aspects, which include a staff of professionals, structural permanence and a basic educational purpose.
Dan Nasitka, manager of public and community relations at the Discovery Science Center, said the community initiatives makes their center stand apart. This includes educating citizens in water and waste programs.
Nasitka added the center has outreach programs such as the “pumpkin launch,” which has been held at Cal State Fullerton for the past couple years. The free community event welcomes everyone to learn about physics while launching pumpkins in the air.
“We want kids to actually go onto a college campus and talk to engineering students,” said Nasitka. “We try to push the STEM principles, which is science, technology, engineering and math.”
Having the Discovery and Science Center be nominated as a finalist is a huge deal, Nasitka said. He added that the nomination confirms what he calls a “hub of learning and educating” while having fun.
Though Folmar is proud the city is being noticed for something often overlooked, she said the positive spotlight on Santa Ana is a relief because the city is like “backwater.”
“It would mean something for Santa Ana,” Folmer said. “We need to be known for positive things and I’m proud that the Discovery Center was also nominated.”