Children's Museum Houston and Harris County Public Library Receive Nation’s Highest Museum and Library Honor

Jo-Carolyn Goode | 5/21/2024, 10:38 a.m.
Houston is celebrating a historic achievement as the Children's Museum Houston (CMH) and the Harris County Public Library (HCPL) have …

Houston is celebrating a historic achievement as the Children's Museum Houston (CMH) and the Harris County Public Library (HCPL) have both been honored with the 2024 National Medal for Museum and Library Service. This prestigious accolade, awarded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), is the highest recognition given to museums and libraries that make exceptional contributions to their communities.

A Historic Double Victory

For the first time ever, both a library and a museum from the same city have received this esteemed award in the same year. This milestone also marks the first time Houston has brought home this award since The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston received it in 1997. 

“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. “This award symbolizes our success in ensuring every family has access to top-tier educational exhibits and programming. Together with HCPL, we have made history and 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,” added 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."

Children's Museum Houston's Achievements

Nominated by 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 Children's Museum Houston was recognized for its extensive community outreach and educational programming:

- Inclusive Access: 35% of the Museum's 700,000+ visitors are admitted free of charge, with all outreach programs provided at no cost to over 120,000 participants across 270+ locations.

- Parental Support: Programs that equip parents to support early brain and socioemotional development, fostering school readiness.

- STEM Education: Activities that build foundations for STEM careers, including inquiry-based exploration, digital design, coding, and robotics.

- Cultural Celebration: Programs that celebrate Houston’s diversity, encouraging families to appreciate various cultures and traditions.

 Harris County Public Library's Contributions

Nominated by Congresswomen Lizzie Fletcher and Sheila Jackson Lee, the Harris County Public Library was honored for its innovative efforts to increase access to education and technology:

- Tech Accessibility: Leveraged Emergency Connectivity Fund grants to provide free laptops and 5G hotspots to 70,000 residents lacking reliable internet.

- Community Engagement: Built long-term relationships with community organizations in low-income areas.

- Language and Citizenship Programs: Expanded English language learning and naturalization programs.

- Juvenile Support: Partnered with the Harris County Juvenile Probation Department to bring library services to young individuals in residential programs.

- Mobile Outreach: Provided customized educational programs and services through mobile librarians and outreach vehicles.

National Recognition

Selected from 30 national finalists, the recipients of the 2024 National Medal for Museum and Library Service exemplify institutions that provide dynamic programming and exceptional community outreach. These institutions bring about significant change, touching lives and helping 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 validates our belief that public libraries and children's museums should drive positive change. HCPL and CMH are committed to meeting the evolving needs of the communities we serve.

Award Ceremony

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

Houston stands proud as these two incredible institutions are celebrated on a national stage, highlighting their dedication to education, community service, and cultural enrichment.