Chapter 12: Awards

12.1 Awards purpose and types
12.2 Awards program description

12.3 Scholarships for Spectrum Scholars
12.4 Awards calendar
12.5 ACRL awards list

   12.1 Awards purpose and types

The purpose of the ACRL Awards Program is to recognize or assist outstanding members of the academic and research library profession. There are three basic types of ACRL awards: achievement and distinguished service, research/travel grants and publications. Achievement and distinguished service awards are intended to honor academic and research librarians for significant past achievements, such as publications, program development, or general leadership in the profession. Such awards include a citation, and may also involve a cash award. Research and travel awards, normally in the form of grants, can also recognize past achievements, but their main purpose is to assist academic and research librarians in completing a research project, usually relating to some aspect of academic or research librarianship. Publication awards are given for outstanding articles, bibliographies, catalogs, etc. ACRL awards are made to either individuals or groups. Depending upon the terms of the award, recipients need not be members of ACRL. All ACRL awards conform to the guidelines contained in the Awards Manual of the American Library Association.

   12.2 Awards program description

12.2.1 Procedures

Selection of recipients for ACRL awards is normally made in closed session at the Midwinter Meeting by juries specially appointed by the administering unit. For purposes of continuity, it is useful to appoint jury members for multiyear, overlapping terms. Awards are announced after the Midwinter Meeting and are presented at the Annual Conference. All ACRL awards presented are announced in C&RL News.

All ACRL award procedures stipulate that juries are not compelled to make awards in years when suitable candidates have not been found.

   12.2.2 Establishing new awards

As of Fall 2018, the ACRL Board has set a five-year moratorium on the establishment of any new awards in order to consider investment in other strategic initiatives. The ACRL Board will revisit the process for establishing new awards in Fall 2023.

Except during this temporary moratorium period, any person or group inside or outside of ACRL may propose the establishment of a new ACRL award to be administered at either the division committee or section level. The number of ACRL awards should remain limited, however, to ensure that the prestige of the awards is not diluted. For similar reasons, care should be taken to make certain that the purpose or criteria of awards do not overlap. All awards are administered by ACRL at the division committee level or by one of its sections.

Those considering the establishment of new awards should discuss their plans, if possible, with ACRL's sections in order to learn from the experience of other units and to ensure that there is no overlap with awards already being presented.

In accordance with ALA guidelines, cash recognition awards should not be less than $1,000. Administering units should also make every effort to ensure that endowments provided by donors are adequate to sustain the award for at least five years.

ALA awards are of four types. Effective 1995, the minimum amounts are as follows:

  • Grants - $10,000
  • Recognition - $5,000
  • Scholarships - $3,000
  • Conference Sponsorships - $1,000

"All proposals for new awards must clearly indicate that the award will have financial support either from a vendor or from the establishment of an endowment. Recurring funding for an award must include an amount to cover the costs of the award's administration. This administrative funding will be used for such purposes as publicity and reimbursement of ACRL staff time. The amount of administrative funding needed for an award shall be determined in consultation with ACRL staff prior to the establishment of the award. After establishment of the award, staff will annually adjust the administrative fee in consultation with the award vendor." (Source: ACRL Board, January 1993)

   12.2.3 Administrative Fees

In developing the new award proposal the unit should consider the cost of administering the award. The administrative fee for new awards is 20% of the award amount, not to exceed $1,000. This administrative fee does not apply to Endowment Scholarships.

The purpose of the administrative fee shall be to pay for:

  • costs of preparation, printing, and distribution of award criteria and nomination forms
  • costs for preparing appropriate citations and/or plaques
  • publicity and promotion of the award
  • expenses for the award presentation ceremonies

All proposed ACRL awards are reviewed by ACRL staff and are approved by (a) the ACRL Board and (b) the ALA Awards Committee. Recommendations for the establishment of ACRL awards should be submitted to the ACRL Board and, if approved, to the ALA Awards Committee.

   12.2.4 Steps for preparing an award proposal

Proposals for new ACRL awards are to be submitted in writing in the form set forth below.

  1. Name of Award
  2. Definition, Purpose and Criteria: Specify the person(s) or group(s) eligible to receive the award, the purpose(s) for which the award will be given, and a brief outline of the criteria to be followed in selecting a winner.
  3. Number and Frequency of Award: Designate the number of possible recipients at any one time and the frequency with which the award is to be presented. State that if a suitable candidate is not found, the award will not be presented that year.
  4. Selection of Jury to Administer the Award: Indicate the person who appoints the committee to administer the award; what, if any, particular group or groups from which the juries will be chosen; the number of jury members and any special qualifications needed by the jury members. All new awards must be administered either at the division committee or section level.
  5. Deadline for Nomination of Candidates: Specify the date nominations are due and the form that nominations will take, e.g., a statement of outstanding contributions, etc. The dates of the Midwinter Meeting affect the date nominations are due. Unless otherwise specified the deadline for nominations should be the first Friday in December.
  6. Screening of Candidates and Recommendations: Indicate the process to be used in determining the award recipient.
  7. Presentation of the Award: Specify dates for the announcement and presentation of the award.
  8. Form and/or Type of Award: Designate the form and/or type of award to be given. (e.g. cash, citation, medal, etc.)
  9. Donor: Specify the individual, group, institution, etc. who will provide funds for both any cash award to be given and the administrative expenses incurred.
  10. Contact Person: Name, address, and telephone number, fax or e-mail.

   12.2.5 "One-time" awards

Units may also want to consider the use of "one-time awards." One-time awards are designed to recognize exceptional achievement or outstanding contributions; to celebrate a special milestone or anniversary; or to show appreciation. A unit interested in offering a one-time award should prepare a proposal (reviewed by staff) for the ACRL Board that includes the following information: purpose or goal; submission or nominating procedures and deadlines; criteria for selection; award source or sponsor; promotion plan; selection process; award ceremony timing and location; publicity plan; and budget. These one-time awards do not need to be approved by the ALA Awards Committee.

   12.2.6 Special Presidential Recognition award

ACRL offers many ways to recognize individuals who perform outstanding services to the profession or association. However, except for the Academic/Research Librarian of the Year Award, other awards are for specialized areas of service or activities, e.g., Miriam Dudley Instruction Librarian Award. The Special Presidential Recognition award recognizes transformational efforts and is not limited to activity in a specialized area.

Special Presidential Recognition will only be made when warranted. There should be no expectation for an annual award, nor should every President feel encumbered to bestow such recognition. This special recognition is reserved for individuals whose contribution is extraordinarily compelling. There is no limit on the number of recognitions to be made, but it is anticipated that recognitions will be exceptional and infrequent.

The Special Presidential Recognition highlights excellence among members of ACRL who have provided outstanding service to the association and profession of academic librarianship. Among the possible criteria for the Recognition:

  • Transformational impact on the association and/or profession.
  • Strategic and compelling advancement of the association and the profession.
  • Exemplary or innovative programming or service.
  • Levels of effort well beyond normal volunteer commitment and leadership


  • Nominations from the Board may be made to the ACRL President at any time.
  • It is the President's prerogative to move nominations forward to the Board.
  • The Board approves any nominations.
  • Recognition may be made at any time deemed appropriate by the President; any reception or ceremony is likewise at the President's discretion.
  • The Recognition may consist of a plaque, letter, or object of recognition (vase, bowl, obelisk, etc.). No monetary award will be connected with the Recognition.
  • Special Presidential Recognition will be listed among the President's responsibilities.

   12.2.7 Suspending or discontinuing awards

ACRL awards may be discontinued or suspended for any of the following reasons:

  • General lack of interest in the award as shown by the failure of a jury to receive any nominations or applications for the award for three consecutive years.
  • Inability of three consecutive juries to make a selection of a winner because the terms of the award are unworkable, impractical, or outdated.
  • Continuing pressure brought to bear on a jury to influence the selection of a winner.
  • Withdrawal of financial support by the donor.
  • Any other reasons deemed appropriate by the ACRL Board.

A recommendation to discontinue or suspend an ACRL award is made to the ACRL Board by the unit administering the award or a divisional award committee. Upon the approval of the ACRL Board, the recommendation is presented to the ALA Awards Committee for action.

If an award is discontinued or suspended for one of the reasons stated above, a statement indicating one of the following reasons should be received by the Staff Liaison, or the chair of a divisional award committee, or the appropriate section chair.

  1. A letter from the donor indicating the reason for discontinuation of the award, preferably six months to one year prior to discontinuation.
  2. If applicable, a letter from the estate of a personal donor in the event of death indicating procedures for the continuation or discontinuation of the award.
  3. A letter from the unit indicating the reason for discontinuation and the effective date, preferably six months to one year prior to discontinuation.

   12.2.8 Reviewing awards

Each award should be reviewed as part of the administering unit's regular review process. The review should consider (a) the appropriateness of the award's purpose and procedures, and (b) the adequacy of the funding available for the award and its administration.

   12.2.9 Award funding

ACRL will be responsible for securing funding for division-level awards.

Sections are responsible for securing and maintaining funding for the awards they administer. If a section award loses funding from a sponsor, the section may continue to offer the award unfunded, or may choose to fund the award with basic services funding from the section's budget. Sections should not approach another source of outside funding without first consulting ACRL staff.

   12.3 Scholarships for Spectrum Scholars

Some years ACRL is able to offer scholarships for the National Conference to Spectrum Scholars who are currently in library school and who have expressed an interest in academic libraries. The scholarships consist of complimentary conference registration and a travel stipend. The ACRL Board decides whether or not to offer a scholarship program prior to each National Conference.

   12.4 Awards calendar


  • Press releases announcing the awards are distributed via the  Public Awareness Office (PAO)
  • Press releases announcing new awards and updated award info is distributed via PAO
  • Letter of nomination solicitation to previous recipients of the Hugh C. Atkinson Memorial Award and the Academic/Research Librarian of the Year Award
  • Schedule Midwinter and Annual Conference meetings


  • Approaching deadline communicated to award committee chairs


  • Award applicants acknowledged
  • Award applications and nominations processed


  • Award application/nomination deadline: first Friday in December
  • Award nominations e-mailed to divisional award committee members
  • Section award chairs receive nominations and distribute to committee members
  • Section award committees must notify ACRL of the number of applicants within one week of deadline
  • Award media profile form and instructions e-mailed to award committee chairs


  • Award committees meet to discuss and select award recipients at Midwinter
  • Award committee chairs reminded to complete media profile forms by the Tuesday of Midwinter and copy ACRL on all correspondence
  • Chair notifies appropriate parties of committee decision (confidential note) immediately during Midwinter 
  • Award committees complete publicity worksheet detailing all promotional efforts 


  • ACRL sends letters to award recipients, nominees, and nominating parties:
    • Congratulations from ACRL president and ACRL Executive Director to awardees
    • Letters of regret to unsuccessful candidates and nominating parties
  • Previous WESS-SEES grant recipient reminded that report is due
  • Press releases on award recipients prepared
  • All awards previous recipients lists updated
  • Copy for March/April issue of C&RL News announcing award winners prepared
  • Award committee chairs reminded to send photos for award winners


  • Winners announced on ACRL Insider and ACRL Update
  • W-9's requested from recipients of cash awards and forward the appropriate vendor/sponsor
  • WESS-SEES report forwarded to Executive Director
  • Press release to ALA Public Awareness Office announcing award winners
  • Articles appear in March issue of C&RL News announcing award winners
  • Send press releases to media outlets specified by each award winner


  • Order awards plaques and certificates; checks for award winners requested
  • Committee chairs of type-of-libraries sections reminded of responsibility to Academic/Research Librarian of the Year Committee
  • Plans for awards programs, receptions, and ceremonies at Annual Conference completed
  • Staff contact sponsors regarding attendance details, plaque and check commitments, and bill for administrative fee
  • Award flyers e-mailed to awards committee chairs for informational update/review - Must have changes completed by May 1


  • Award flyers for Annual Conference updated
  • Award ceremony attendance, vendor representation, and award recipients determined and all parties notified of date/time/place of award ceremonies
  • Award flyers e-mailed to committee chairs for distribution


  • Awards ceremonies conducted
  • Award checks, plaques, and citations distributed to chairs


  • "Call for nomination" press releases drafted for announcement through ALA Public Awareness Office
  • Award announcement for September issue of C&RL News prepared
  • New award information posted and updated on ACRL awards Web page
  • Memorandum drafted to all award committee chairs regarding the awards program promotion efforts; award background, comments on the importance of the award, historical anecdotes, etc. request for inclusion in any future promotional efforts.
  • Award season announced on ACRLeads
  • Awards flyers are e-mailed to award committee chairs for distribution and encouragement of submissions

   12.5 ACRL awards list

ACRL currently administers 21 awards. Complete details are available on the awards webpage. The deadline for application for most awards is the first Friday in December. Selection is made at the Midwinter Meeting and awards are presented at the following ALA Annual Conference. For further information on any ACRL awards, contact the Awards Program Officer, (800) 545-2433, ext. 2521.

Achievement and Distinguished Service Awards

Academic/Research Librarian of the Year
Excellence in Academic Libraries Awards
Hugh C. Atkinson Memorial Award
CLS Innovation in College Librarianship Award
CJCLS EBSCO Community College Learning Resources Award
CJCLS EBSCO Community College Library Achievement Award
Routledge Distance Learning Librarianship Conference Sponsorship Award
EBSS Distinguished Education and Behavioral Sciences Librarian Award
Instruction Section Innovation Award
Miriam Dudley Instruction Librarian Award
PPIRS Marta Lange/SAGE-CQ Press Award
STS Innovation in Science and Technology Librarianship Award
ULS Outstanding Professional Development Award
WGSS Career Achievement in Women & Gender Studies Librarianship Award
WGSS Significant Achievement in Women & Gender Studies Librarianship Award

Research Awards/Grants

ESS De Gruyter European Librarianship Study Grant


Katharine Kyes Leab and Daniel J. Leab American Book Prices Current Exhibition Catalogue Awards
Ilene F. Rockman Instruction Publication of the Year Award
Oberly Award for Bibliography in the Agricultural or Natural Sciences


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