I Love My (Programming) Librarian

four of the ten 2011 I Love My Librarian Award winners (clockwise fromtop left): Venetia V. Demson, Martha Ferriby, Jennifer O. Keohane, and Saundra Ross-Forrest


The winners of the 2011 I Love My Librarian Award have been announced, and I was pleased to see some of them were recognized specifically for the programming they brought to their communities. The award was developed to encourage library users to recognize the accomplishments of exceptional public, school, college, community college, or university librarians. Ten librarians are selected each year, and each librarian receives a $5,000 cash award, a plaque, and $500 travel stipend to attend an awards reception in New York hosted by The New York Times. In addition, a plaque is given to each award winner’s library. Here are some highlights from this year’s winners:

  • Venetia V. Demson (PDF), Chief of Adaptive Services at the DC Public Library and Regional Librarian at the DC Regional Library for the Blind & Physically Handicapped in Washington, D.C., was nominated for her work for those in the community with disabilities. She partnered with Columbia Lighthouse for the Blind (CLB) to offer the Braille Book Club for Kids Grades 1–6, a Chess Club for blind or low-vision youth, and CLB’s Camp Lighthouse at the library. Shahinaz Gadalla, mother of a Braille Book Club participant, said, “Joining the Braille book club was an eye opener for me, and a great help for my daughter. … This activity initiated a community through which children and families connected. Selecting the DC Regional Library for the Blind’s staff as partners in this activity opened all the wonderful resources in the library to the book club participants.”

  • Martha (Marty) Ferriby (PDF), Director at the Hackley Public Library in Muskegon, Michigan, was recognized for her support of children’s programming. As her nomination notes, “Most libraries of this size do not have a full-time children’s librarian. Hackley does. With Marty’s guidance, each year Friends budgets $6,000 for children’s programs alone. Under her leadership, the number of these free programs grew from 155 in 2001/2002 to 185 in 2010/2011, a year when 4763 children and teens attended. … She has encouraged Friends to subsidize two writing contests and a Black History Month Calendar contest.”

  • Jennifer O. Keohane (PDF), Business Outreach Librarian at the Simsbury (Conn.) Public Library, was recognized for her business programming. “Jennifer saw the need for business programs and, particularly, programs for the unemployed, way before the current economic crisis. In 1999, she designed and launched a public library-based ‘Business Resource Center’ (BRC) that identifies and addresses the information needs of the business community and town government.” In addition, her “career-oriented programs offer the unemployed not only a place to learn, but also a place to collaborate and network. She provides programs on resume preparation; interview techniques; how to find jobs in difficult times; how to stay positive and motivated; how to transition your career—the list is endless.”

  • Saundra Ross-Forrest (PDF), Librarian/Branch Head at the North Avondale Branch Library of the Birmingham (Ala.) Public Library System, was recognized for her programming for low-income patrons and the underserved. Her library is located in between two public housing communities, and the majority of students the library serves are on free or reduced lunch programs. “She held a ‘Hallowread’ program on Halloween to provide treats, books, crafts and games in a safe environment for more than 80 neighborhood children; hosted a ‘Hippity Hop Good Time,’ an Easter Egg Hunt and story time for clients at a nearby nursing home; hosted a ‘Valentine’s Day Gathering,’ where senior citizens were treated to jazz, games, prizes and a luncheon at the library; started a ‘Women of Grace’ program for young mothers; supported daily, after-school tutorial programs; and established an in-house storyteller.

Be sure to read about the other 2011 I Love My Librarian Award winners; you just may find some inspiration.

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