St. Louis County Library named a top innovator among urban libraries for 2020 response to pandemic


Children receive free meals at the St. Louis County Library during the pandemic in 2020.

The Urban Libraries Council has named St. Louis County Library one of the 10 Top Innovators during the 2020 Innovations Celebration held virtually Dec. 11. The annual Innovations award program recognizes and raises the visibility of cutting-edge programs, strategies, tools, techniques and ideas from ULC’s member library systems across the U.S. and Canada.

St. Louis County Library (SLCL) was selected by a panel of expert judges from 260 submissions in 10 categories that showcase creative thinking and imaginative applications of library resources. The Innovator award recognizes St. Louis County Library’s Drive-Thru Services in the Wellness, Safety and Sustainability category.

Throughout the pandemic, SLCL has worked with a variety of community partners to provide critical resources to the region. Branch parking lots have been used to distribute vital services such as drive-thru meals and fresh produce with Operation Food Search (over 1 million meals provided to date), emergency diapers and period supply kits from the St. Louis Area Diaper Bank, and COVID-19 testing and flu shots with the St. Louis County Department of Public Health.

Kristen Sorth, St. Louis County Library Director and CEO, said in a news release, “St. Louis County Library stepped up and took an active role during the COVID-19 pandemic. Together with our community partners, we came up with creative ways to support our community during this crisis. We are an organization that likes to start with yes and work back from there.”

SLCL has continued to offer a wealth of resources to help keep the community connected, learning and engaged despite the disruptions of the pandemic. In addition to the drive-thru services, SLCL has issued thousands of Chromebooks and Wi-Fi hotspots to area students to assist with virtual learning through the Digital Equity Initiative. While library buildings remain closed, staff have been offering a wide range of online programming, including virtual author events, yoga, book discussions, story times, cooking demonstrations and more.

All 2020 ULC Innovations entries can be viewed at

The Urban Libraries Council is an innovation and impact tank of North America’s leading public library systems. ULC drives cutting-edge research and strategic partnerships to elevate the power of libraries as essential, transformative institutions for the 21st-century. More than 150 urban member libraries in the U.S. and Canada rely on ULC to identify significant challenges facing today’s communities and provide new tools and techniques to help libraries achieve stronger outcomes in education, digital equity, workforce and economic development, and race and social equity.

Drive-thru COVID-19 testing at the St. Louis County Library in 2020.
Fresh produce distribution at the St. Louis County Library in 2020.