Be Inspired by These Award-winning Librarians

The winners of the Carnegie Corporation of New York/New York Times I Love My Librarian Award have been announced. Librarians in public, school, university, and community college libraries were nominated by library patrons, who shared stories of how their librarians make a difference in their communities. I thought I’d share the stories of four winning librarians who stood out to me not only for their dedication to the profession, but also for the innovative programming they bring to their communities. Be sure to read all of the winning nominations in full—I’m sure you’ll be inspired!

Mary Ellen Pellington of Octavia Fellin Library in Gallup, New Mexico, was nominated in part for her writing and filmmaking programs:

As an aspiring writer and filmmaker, I had much trepidation moving to Gallup. This New Mexican city, situated between the Navajo and Zuni Indian Reservations, is not known for fiction writing or independent filmmaking, so I felt my move there would surely limit further development of my craft. That may well have been the case had Mary Ellen not come to town. In 2010, Mary Ellen assisted me in establishing Gallup Writers, a fiction writing group. She helped advertise the group, provided space for meetings, and set up writing workshops. … As for filmmaking, in 2011, Mary Ellen brought documentarians and Native American filmmakers to Gallup. She expanded the library’s video collection and started Library Cinema, a yearlong film series featuring film and filmmaking discussions sponsored by the Gallup Film Foundation.

The Octavia Fellin Library has a standalone children’s branch that actively seeks new and innovating programs. Getting kids and teenagers excited about the library is not easy. Mary Ellen brought to town a professional youth services librarian (the first in Gallup) to guide and excites kids and teens alike. The children’s branch has an annual community carnival, reading clubs, story times, visiting authors, magic shows, game times, guest speakers, performers, public computers, video games, craft programs, and an annual teen film festival. In 2012, Mary Ellen brought astronaut, Harrison Schmidt, the last man to walk on the moon, to the library to tell the children of our community that they too could reach for the stars.

Madlyn S. Schneider of Queens (N.Y.) Library garnered praise for her innovative outreach programs for the homebound offered via teleconference:

We have had health seminar, history seminars and art seminars. Ms. Schneider has made arrangements three times in the past couple of years for the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Met) to do a series of programs. The Met makes up binders containing pictures of the art work and each week a different dozen lectures on the pieces and we have an interesting lecture. Each binder is about five to six weeks worth of lectures so that we have more than a month of our virtual art visit to the Met. In addition, Ms. Schneider has made arrangements with the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) for a five week lecture series starting in October 2012 and the Met is coming in the fall with a series on American artists and art. It is very exciting since I am unable to go to museums. … We have health seminars over the phone by health care providers (doctors, nurses, social workers, nutritionists, yoga, etc.) which are informative and educational.

The community has become more aware of us and we are no longer the “invisible” population. Now thanks to Ms. Schnieder, we are seen in three dimension.

In addition, Ms. Schneider has expanded the program to include homebound children. She has a Skype program for reading for the younger children and teleconference to the older children so that they can socialize.

Beatriz Adriana Guevara of Charlotte Mecklenburg (N.C.) Library was recognized for her dedication to her community’s Latino population:

She advocates for the Latino community more than any other person I have met before. Whenever the library offers programs, Beatriz goes out in the community to let people know about them. For example, when she offered the College Planning and Career Informational workshops at the library, she visited several local high schools to address students and teachers. She also spoke with teenagers and parents at various churches, and posted flyers in different grocery stores in the area. In addition, she published the information in the four major Spanish-language newspapers in Charlotte and even did two radio interviews, inviting parents and teens to the event. Her time and dedication paid off, since over 120 people benefitted from the workshops! Beatriz maintains a close relationship with the local Spanish newspapers and radio stations, keeping them updated about library programs, and more importantly, keeping the library in the spotlight where people can see its importance. She also takes programs, services, and books out in the community. She partnered with two Central Piedmont Community College ESL classes to offer presentations to the students about library services and register them for library cards. She also engaged these classes at the library by inviting them to take a tour and participate in a library scavenger hunt, where they had an opportunity to meet and interact with other library staff. Since the classes were offered at local elementary schools and all the students were parents of young children, Beatriz offered a four-week Family Literacy Workshop to teach parents the five early literacy practices from the Every Child Ready to Read Curriculum.

Rae Anne Locke of Saugatuck Elementary “Secret Garden” Library in Westport, Connecticut, is valued for her innovative school programs that contribute to the school and local community:

Rae Anne’s collaborative projects often reach out beyond the school community, such as when she collaborated with the second grade team to produce The Kids Guide to Westport. The Kids Guide to Westport is a magazine produced by second graders as they studied various communities in their social studies unit. Working under Rae Anne’s direction and in collaboration with the classroom teachers and technology teacher, students interviewed town leaders as part of their research. Next, the second graders worked with graphic design students from Westport’s Staples High School to produce and publish an informative and unique guide to the town. Thanks to Rae Anne students used various methods of research and teamwork while both learning about and contributing to their local community.

In a project that motivated each and every 5th grade student, Rae Anne collaborated with members of the fifth grade teaching team to help students create digital book trailers. … The SES Secret Garden Library now has a computer station set up with these reviewed books, and the trailers can be easily accessed through the implementation of QR codes on the back of each book. Students in the whole school community can now view the book trailers on the library website by scanning these QR codes to easily access the trailers!

Each winning librarian receives a $5,000 cash award and will be honored at a ceremony and reception in New York, hosted by The New York Times, on December 18. More than 1,500 nominations were received.