PLA awards recognize 15 individuals and public libraries representing excellence

For Immediate Release
Fri, 02/20/2015


Kara O'Keefe

Manager, Membership Marketing


CHICAGO — The Public Library Association (PLA) has announced 15 2015 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 Mary Olson, readers’ advisory librarian, Medina County (Ohio) District Library.

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, Edna Zybell Memorial Library of Clarence, Iowa will use the award toward starting the library’s first ever CD music collection.

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. Maxine Bleiweis, executive director of Westport (Connecticut) Library was chosen for her early role in discussing the value of libraries in economic development and her creation of one of the first library cafes. Bleiweis created a maker space in 2012 and then, using an Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) grant , expanded with robots, SolidWorks CAD software and much more.

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: Jennifer Hannibal, tween librarian, Allen Park (Michigan) Public Library; Trinity Lescallett, adult services manager, Tiffin-Seneca (Ohio) Public Library; Eric Soriano, e-services librarian III, Jacksonville (Florida) Public Library; and Sara White, youth services librarian, Seminole County (Florida) 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 San Juan Island Library in Friday Harbor, Washington, for the impressive quality of its digital communications, as well as the depth of offerings in its collection and services, including outreach to seniors, a growing Hispanic population and the business community (population 7,690).

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 Oli Sanidas, director of digital and library material services, Arapahoe (Colorado) Library District, for “always betting on Beta Tech.”

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 Auburn (Georgia) Public Library in order to develop an outstanding collection of romance fiction, both single-selling titles and series titles.

The Upstart Library Innovation Award honors a public library’s innovative or creative service program with a $2,000 honorarium. The 2015 winner is Grand Rapids (Michigan) Public Library for its implementation of the DigiBridge project, an ambitious connection of library access and public school students that required the cooperation of multiple community partners. The project increased access and support for 17,000 students, impacting an urban community struggling with a technology gap.

PLA also offers two awards for feature articles contributed to its bimonthly journal, Public Libraries.  This year’s first place winner ($500 prize) is Catherine Bloomquist, library literacy coordinator, Saint Paul (Minnesota) Public Library, for her article Mentoring Gen-X Librarians (May/June 2014). An honorable mention and a $300 prize for From Crisis to Collaboration: Pima County Public Library partners with Health Department for Library Nurse Program (January/February 2014), by Kenya Johnson, communications manager; Amber Mathewson, deputy director; and Karyn Prechtel, deputy director, Pima County (Arizona) Public Library System.

PLA President Larry Neal, 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 27, 2015, at the 2015 ALA Annual Conference in San Francisco, California.

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.