Update: Iowa City Public Library lost the library face-off, allowing State College to advance to the Eagleton Eight round. No word yet on whether ICPL staff have commissioned a tribute song to their deflated hopes.
Leslie Knope, the main character on the NBC sitcom Parks and Recreation, had some passionate feelings about libraries. Namely, resentment and loathing. But that doesn’t disqualify libraries from winning awards in her name.
The Engaging Local Government Leaders (ELGL) association is recognizing the best in local public services with their Leslie B. Knope Award, with winners determined by online voting. The Iowa City Public Library (ICPL) is one of the libraries nominated for this honor.
ICPL is up against the Schlow Centre Region Library in State College, Pennsylvania (home of Penn State University) in the Sweetums16 round of the competition. The public is invited to vote through the end of the day to determine which library will advance toward the finals.
Both ICPL and Penn State have been compaigning for votes on social media. The Iowa City and State College city governments have agreed that the losing library must wear their opponent’s college garb — Schlow Centre staff will sport Hawkeye gear if they lose, while ICPL staff will don Penn State apparel — at the next B1G City Meeting, according to Meredith Hines-Dochterman, ICPL’s public relations specialist.
In a press release, ICPL cites their bookmobile, dedicated teen and tween spaces, remodeled children’s room, Autism Accessible Browing Hour, Local Music Project, wi-fi hotspots, mobile app and status as the busiest public library in Iowa as reasons they should win the honor of best library. They also note that they don’t employ anyone named Tammy — librarian Tammy Swanson is Knope’s archrival on Parks and Rec, and her primary reason for hating libraries.
Knope was portrayed by comedian Amy Poehler. Parks and Recreation, which ran for seven seasons and garnered 10 Emmy Award nominations, focused on the often-indifferent employees of the parks and rec department in fictional Pawnee, Indiana, lead by steak-loving libertarian Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman). Deputy Director Knope, by contrast, overflowed with passion for local government, parks and her colleagues, to both humorous and heartwarming effect.
Since the show’s finale in February 2015, Knope has become a symbol of political optimism and female empowerment in memes, protest signs and, now, awards. She even established Galentine’s Day, a pre-Valentine’s Day holiday for celebrating female friendship.