Volume 28, Number 3, Fall 2006

President's Message: Award Winners

by Marilyn Irwin, ASCLA President and Associate Professor, School of Library and Information Science, Indiana University

A former student of mine recently told me that she doesn’t put much stock in awards. In telling me this, she recalled the case of a colleague receiving the Librarian of the Year award from the state library association -- only to have that same librarian arrested the following year for embezzling funds from the library. I’ve thought a lot about that lately as I consider the value of awards and whether they are worth the time and money that goes into presenting them.

One obvious reason for giving awards is to recognize excellence or outstanding achievement. Generally this means the individual or team has gone beyond expectations, completed a project of exceptional value, or provided an innovative service. Hand-in-hand with that purpose is that of thanking the individual or team for their great accomplishments.

Another reason for awards is to help organizations demonstrate what they value. Leadership, collaboration, and service to diverse populations are three areas to which the Association of Specialized and Cooperative Library Agencies (ASCLA) gives merit. Awards therefore serve as a model of excellence in these areas for others to emulate.

In New Orleans, ASCLA presented awards and a scholarship to seven exceptional individuals and teams. They all exemplify the values cherished by ASCLA and walked the extra mile to merit our recognition. In the area of leadership, Keith Curry Lance received the Leadership Achievement Award. As director of the Library Research Services at the Colorado State Library, his library research has supported the work of many librarians. When their jobs and budgets are on the cutting block, many school library media specialists in particular point out the results of his work for support.

Tom Sloan, executive director of the Southeast Florida Information Network (SEFLIN), was presented the Professional Achievement Award. Over the years, Tom has demonstrated outstanding leadership and collaboration on innumerable occasions within Delaware, Florida, ASCLA, and the Council of Chief Officers of State Library Agencies, to name a few. His recent efforts to bring Element-K to all ALA members at a reasonable rate display his ongoing commitment to the professional development of all library staff members.

Exhibiting the values of leadership and service to diverse populations, the ASCLA Service Award was presented to Rhea Rubin of Rubin Consulting. Rhea has served ASCLA in a number of different leadership positions since 1972, including her most recent tenure as chair of the Accessibility Assembly. Her mark of excellence can be found on much of the work the Association has accomplished in the last 30-plus years.

Axel Schmetzke, professor, reference librarian, coordinator of instruction, and head of the Instructional Materials Center at the University of Wisconsin—Stevens Point University Library is the recipient of the Francis Joseph Campbell Award. The award recognizes outstanding contributions to the advancement of library service for people who are blind and physically handicapped, and Axel’s work personifies that purpose. He conducts research, publishes, and gives presentations on accessible information technology. He has also developed an invaluable compilation of his work and the related work of others on his Resources for Accessible Design Web page and Web Accessibility Survey Site.

The Outreach Department of the Johnson County (Kans.) Library was the recipient of the ASCLA Exceptional Service Award. The library serves a population exceeding 366,000 in the metropolitan Kansas City area and ranked third in Hennen’s American Public Library Ratings (HAPLR) for libraries of their size in 2005. The award was given to spotlight the Outreach Department’s innovative efforts to reach individuals who could not come to the library for services, including people with disabilities and those who are incarcerated.

This issue of Interface features an article about the “Come On In” program created by the Youth Services Department of the Skokie (Ill.) Public Library and awarded the ASCLA/KLAS/NOD Award for services for people with disabilities. The library serves a population of approximately 64,000 in the Chicago area. The Youth Services Department collaborated with the local special education department to provide exceptional services and technologies to support the needs of young people with disabilities.

Last, but not least, is our view to the future. Avery Deane Olmstead IV was awarded the Century Scholarship for 2006 to pursue a degree in library and information science. Already Olmstead has demonstrated his skills in leadership, collaboration, and service for diverse populations through his work with AmeriCorps, the Maine Humanities Council, and the National Theatre Workshop of the Handicapped and we will watch his continued growth within our profession.

Do the ASCLA awards meet the purpose of awards by acknowledging excellence and demonstrating our values? This year’s recipients are exemplars of our reasons for presenting awards. Each serves as a model to others and warrants our accolades. The challenge to the association is therefore not whether the giving of awards is worthwhile or not. Rather it is to find a fitting way to celebrate the achievements of the recipients. Congratulations to all of the 2006 ASCLA award and scholarship recipients, and thank you for all you have done to support the needs of others.