PLA awards recognize 13 individuals and public libraries representing excellence

Fri, 02/12/2016


Kara O'Keefe
Manager, Membership Marketing

CHICAGO — The Public Library Association (PLA) has announced 13 2016 award winners honoring the best in public library service, innovation and outreach.

The Allie Beth Martin Award, sponsored by Baker & Taylor, recognizes a public librarian for demonstrating a range and depth of knowledge about books and other library materials and the distinguished ability to share that knowledge. This year’s award of $3,000 will be presented to Carolyn Gast, Head of Children's & Teen Curriculum, Howard County (Md.) Library System.

The Baker & Taylor Entertainment Audio Music/Video Product Award includes $2,500 in audio music and video products for the circulating collection of the selected recipient. This year’s winner, Kirbyville (Tex.) Public Library, will use the award to expand the audio music/video circulation collection for juvenile patrons. The main focus for expansion will be in three specific areas: curating a selection of audio music and video products that stimulate visual pathways, pre-literacy skills, and provide exposure to varied vocabulary and languages; maintaining products that encourage development of language and logical reasoning as a vital part of literacy and social skills as well as interpersonal communication skills; providing products in the collection targeting preteen and teens with materials that address appropriate educational milestones in language, math, history, and science as well as addressing body image, personal ethics, conflict resolution, and peer pressure.

The Charlie Robinson Award, sponsored by Baker & Taylor, honors a public library director who has been a risk taker, innovator, and change agent with a $1,000 award. Susan Considine, Executive Director of the Fayetteville (N.Y.) Free Library was chosen for her vision, library outreach, and expansion. Former IMLS Director Susan Hildreth said that during her term as Director, “the Fayetteville Free Library, under [Considine’s] leadership… has served as a showcase for the community and for other libraries both nationally and internationally.”

The DEMCO New Leaders Travel Grant provides funds to new public librarians to enable their attendance at major professional development events. This year’s grantees receive grants between $1,000-$1,500 to attend a PLA continuing education event. Grantees are: Elizabeth Raczkowski, Youth Services Librarian, Rochester Hills (Mich.) Public Library; Erin Morrow, Adult Services Librarian, Beaumont (Calif.) Library District; Mallorie Colvin, Technology Specialist, Troy (Mich.) Public Library; Martha Cordeniz O'Hara, Head of Adult Services, Lake Bluff (Ill.) Public Library.

The EBSCO Excellence in Small and/or Rural Public Library Service Award honors a public library that demonstrates excellence in service to a community of 10,000 people or fewer. This year’s $1,000 award recognizes the East Berlin (Pa.) Community Library, for participation in the community’s week-long 250th anniversary “Founder’s Day” events, which included the hiring of an historical storyteller, updating the local history book, and hosting a family carnival.

The John Iliff Award, sponsored by Innovative, honors the life and accomplishments of John Iliff, early adopter and champion of technology in public libraries. This award provides a $1,000 honorarium to a library professional or library that has used technology and innovation as a tool to improve services to public library users. It is presented to Colin Tomele, Cleveland Heights-University Heights (Ohio) Public Library for the "Book a Room" custom online calendar.

The Romance Writers of America Library Grant is designed to provide a public library the opportunity to build or expand its romance fiction collection and/or host romance fiction programming. This year’s $4,500 grant is awarded to the Elkhart (Ind.) Public Library in order to develop a collection that serves the community. The library also plans orient staff to the new collection, host a writers workshop, and partner with a local theater to screen the newly released documentary, Love Between the Covers.

The Upstart Library Innovation Award honors a public library’s innovative or creative service program with a $2,000 honorarium. The 2016 winner is Gail Borden Public Library in Elgin, Ill. for Gold Star Partners, which took a traditional summer reading program in a new direction – providing new opportunities for learning and fun through involved community partners.

PLA also offers two awards for feature articles contributed to its bimonthly journal, Public Libraries. This year’s first place winner ($500 prize) is Kati Irons, Pierce County (Wash.) Library System, for her feature article "Low-Hanging Fruit: Learning How to Improve Customer Service, Staff Communication, and Job Satisfaction with Process Improvement" (January/February 2015). The honorable mention and a $300 prize winner is Douglas Crane, Palm Beach (Fla.) County Library System, for his feature article "May I Ask You A Question? Lessons Learned from Interviewing Public Library Leaders" (November/December 2015).

PLA President Vailey Oehlke, along with the award sponsors and PLA members will recognize all of the award winners as part of the PLA Member Welcome Breakfast on Saturday, June 25, 2016, at the 2016 ALA Annual Conference in Orlando, Fla.

PLA award winners are chosen by the PLA Award juries and the Public Libraries Advisory Subcommittee. For more information on PLA Awards and to volunteer for jury or committee appointments, visit or contact the PLA office at (800) 545-2433, ext. 5PLA.

PLA is a division of the American Library Association. PLA’s core purpose is to strengthen public libraries and their contribution to the communities they serve, and its mission is to enhance the development and effectiveness of public library staff and public library services.