We Won 2024 IMLS National Medal for Museum and Library Service!

May 21, 2024

Children’s Museum Houston and Harris County Public Library Recognized as 2024 Recipients of the Nation’s Highest Museum and Library Honor

Children’s Museum Houston and Harris County Public Library make history - becoming the first two entities from same city to receive prestigious award in the same year

We bring home the gold after 27 years!


HOUSTON, TEXAS —The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) announced Children’s Museum Houston (CMH) and Harris County Public Library (HCPL) of Houston, Texas today as two of the 10 recipients of the 2024 National Medal for Museum and Library Service. The National Medal is the nation’s highest honor given to museums and libraries that make significant and exceptional contributions to their communities. For the past 30 years, the award has celebrated institutions that are making a difference for individuals, families, and communities.


“IMLS is delighted to announce the 10 recipients of the 2024 National Medal for Museum and Library Service,” said IMLS Acting Director Cyndee Landrum. “These institutions and their dedicated staff are stepping up to anticipate and meet the needs of their individual communities. From New York to Arizona, these 10 recipients are unparalleled sources of education, health, jobs, and cultural resources, bridging the gaps of distance, resources, and experience for community members. We look forward to honoring their accomplishments in Washington, DC, this summer!”


This year's awards mark a historic milestone on multiple fronts. Notably, the institutions celebrate a groundbreaking double victory as both a library and a museum from the same city claim the prestigious honor for the first time. Furthermore, the return of the award to Houston holds special significance, marking the first win for the city since The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston received the award in


"Winning the IMLS National Medal for Museum and Library Service alongside Harris County Public Library is a remarkable achievement for the children and families of Houston,” said Children's Museum Houston CEO Rayanne Darensbourg. “For the Museum this award symbolizes our success in ensuring that every family has access to the best science, technology, engineering, math, literacy, cultural, and art exhibits and programming – equipping children to dream big and reach their fullest potential. Together, with Harris County Public Library, we have made history, and together, we will continue to inspire, educate, and empower generations to come."


"It is fitting that the Children's Museum Houston and Harris County Public Library were awarded this honor in the same year. Our missions are, in many ways, parallel,” said HCPL Executive Director Edward Melton. “In a time when equitable public education has become politicized, our two organizations step up to offer access to programs and resources that inspire curiosity and nurture a lifelong love of learning. While this award honors the achievements of HCPL and CMH for the year 2024, I believe it is all about the future and our continued commitment to educational access.”


Children's Museum Houston NMMLS Nomination

Children’s Museum Houston was nominated for the National Medal for Museum and Library Service (NMMLS)by the honorable U.S. Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, Dr. Tricia Zucker of UTHealth Children’s Learning Institute, Paul Martin of Arizona State University, and Kristi Rangel of Gulf Coast Workforce Board.  The nominations highlighted multiple ways in which the Museum has collaborated with universities, healthcare providers, schools, and other community-based organizations to increase the ability of Houstonians to prepare children from birth forward for success in school and in careers to follow, emphasizing experiential learning and equity of educational opportunities:


  • The Museum emphasizes service to families experiencing socioeconomic disadvantages and language barriers –admitting 35% of 700,000+ Museum visitors free of charge, providing 100% of outreach programming free of charge for 120,000+ participants across 270+ locations, serving 100,000 additional visitors at the Fort Bend Children’s Discovery Center, and facilitating all programming in English and Spanish.
  • The Museum equips parents to serve as the first and most influential teachers of their children, focusing on strategies to support early brain development and on experiences that promote socioemotional development and school readiness.
  • The Museum supports elementary age children in developing foundations for STEM-dependent careers via facilitated and self-directed activities involving inquiry-based exploration, digital design/fabrication, computer programming/coding, and robotics long before these activities are introduced in most classrooms.
  • The Museum celebrates the diversity of all Houstonians, with arts and cultural programming, existing exhibits and those in development encouraging families tolearn about and appreciate cultures and traditions other than their own.


Harris County Public Library NMMLS Nomination

Harris County Public Library was nominated for the National Medal for Museum and Library Service by the honorable U.S. Congresswomen Lizzie Fletcher and Sheila Jackson Lee. These nominations highlighted Library programs that increase equitable access to services, technology, information, and education for Harris County residents:

  • The Library leveraged Emergency Connectivity Fund grants to partner with Google and T-Mobile to provide free laptop computers and 5G hotspots to 70,000 residents who lacked reliable home internet service and the devices to connect to it for school and work.
  • The Library made concerted efforts to reach low-income and resource-starved areas by building long-term productive relationships with community organizations.
  • The Library expanded its English language learning and naturalization programs.
  • The Library’s partnership with Harris County Juvenile Probation Department brings library services to young men and women completing residential programs within the HCJPD system.
  • The Library’s Mobile Outreach Librarians and fleet of outreach vehicles bring customized educational programs and services wherever Harris County residents gather.


Selected from 30 national finalists, the 10 recipients of the 2024 National Medal for Museum and Library Service represent institutions that provide dynamic programming and services that exceed expected levels of service. Through their community outreach, these institutions bring about change that touches the lives of individuals and helps communities thrive.      


“It is truly gratifying to be recognized by the Institute of Museum and Library Service for the work we do to strengthen communities in Houston and Harris County,” said Melton. “This award is a ringing validation of our belief that public libraries and children museums should be a driving force for positive change. HCPL and CMH are committed to identifying and meeting the ever-evolving needs of all the communities we serve.”


The award will be presented at a ceremony this summer in Washington, DC. For a complete list of 2024 recipients and to learn more about the National Medal awardees, visit the IMLS website.



About the Institute of Museum and Library Services

The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s libraries and museums. We advance, support, and empower America’s museums, libraries, and related organizations through grantmaking, research, and policy development. IMLS envisions a nation where individuals and communities have access to museums and libraries to learn from and be inspired by the trusted information, ideas, and stories they contain about our diverse natural and cultural heritage. To learn more, visit www.imls.gov and follow us on Facebook and LinkedIn.


About Children’s Museum Houston

Winner of Good Housekeeping’s “2023 and 2024 Best Family Travel Award” and “Houston’s Best Museum” in Houston Chronicle’s 2023 Best of the Best Awards, only American continent finalist in 2023 Hands On! Children in Museums International Award, listed among Forbes, LA Times and USA Today’s “Best Children’s Museums in the U.S.,” TripAdvisor’s Certificate of Excellence “Hall of Fame,” The CultureTrip’s “Top Museum and Landmark to Visit in Houston” and one of “Houston’s Must-See Museums” by Travel Channel, Children’s Museum Houston is a Playground for Your Mind™.  It is dedicated to transforming communities through innovative, child-centered learning that improves the trajectories of all children. Founded in 1980 and housed in a whimsical building designed by internationally acclaimed architect Robert Venturi, Children’s Museum Houston offers a multitude of innovative exhibits and bilingual learning programs for kids ages birth to 12 years. The Museum is a 501(c)(3) organization. For more information, visit www.cmhouston.org or call (713) 522-1138.  Can your mind come out to play?™


About Harris County Public Library

Harris County Public library enriches lives to strengthen communities. The library has an annual circulation of nearly 14 million items and consistently ranks in the top ten worldwide for digital circulation. HCPL is a network of 27community-focused branch libraries offering programs and services that nurture literacy and lifelong learning for all ages. The library is committed to providing excellent customer service, strong collections, and cutting-edge information technology for the 21st Century.  Visit www.hcpl.net for more information.