Jefferson Jr. and Swader win the 2019 ALA Equality Award

For Immediate Release
Tue, 05/21/2019


Cheryl M Malden

Program Officer


American Library Association


CHICAGO – Julius C. Jefferson, Jr. and Lorelle R. Swader are the 2019 recipients of the ALA’s Equality Award. They will both receive $1,000 and a framed citation of achievement donated by Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group.  The award is given to an individual or group for outstanding contributions toward promoting equality in the library profession.

Jefferson and Swader have both demonstrated a commitment to diversity and inclusion with a focus on the rights of underrepresented library workers, exemplifying the spirit of promoting equality in the library profession.

Jefferson is section head of Research and Library Services in the Foreign Affairs, Defense and Trade Division of the Congressional Research Service at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. He has been an advocate for equality in librarianship, both in public forums and in private moments over two decades, steadfastly believing that knowledge is an empowering force and an essential element in a civil and democratic society, and that LIS professionals play important role in ensuring access to all. Jefferson is ALA councilor, a past ALA Executive Board member and has served as president of the Freedom to Read Foundation in 2013-2016. Through his leadership role in professional associations, Mr. Jefferson has been a driving force for fairness, equality and inclusion focusing on the issues facing underrepresented communities. During the third JCLC Conference in 2018, Jefferson organized a well-attended panel session, “Walking the Tightrope: Retaining Librarians of Color,” exploring and sharing the best strategies for libraries in the country to recruit, retain and promote librarians of color. He co-edited the book "21st Century Black Librarian in America: Issues and Challenges" (2012), examining the state of black librarianship. At the National Conference of African American Librarians in 2010 and 2013 respectively, he created and moderated panel discussions on strategies for recruiting African American librarians into the LIS field. He has been a passionate public voice on diversity and inclusion through his tireless efforts at numerous public forums and panels at the ALA annual conferences and other LIS conferences. At the Library of Congress (LC), Mr. Jefferson has mentored numerous younger librarians who faced challenges stemming from a lack of opportunities. He also encouraged younger librarians to become advocates for equality and inclusion in the LIS profession. During his tenure as vice president and chief steward of the Congressional Research Employees Association, the union representing librarians and policy analysts in CRS, Mr. Jefferson demonstrated commitments to protecting the rights of CRS employees and promoting diversity and inclusion in the recruitment and retention of librarians at LC. In reviewing his nomination, the jury noted that Jefferson’s contributions to diversity and inclusion touch a broad spectrum of women’s rights, workers’ rights and affirmative action, that have far-reaching impacts and influence in the profession.

Swader is the associate executive director of the ALA-APA and the ALA Offices and Member Relations (AOMR). Throughout her professional career, Swader has worked with numerous ALA/APA committees and taskforces focusing on diversity and inclusion, including Spectrum Scholarship, Emerging Leadership and others. She has enthusiastically and diligently advocated for library workers’ salaries.  She is the chief architect and the author for the ALA/APA Librarians and Library Worked Salary surveys. The survey results have become the primary sources of national and regional salary data for libraries. Many libraries in the country use the valuable data to advocate better salaries for their employees. Swader worked closely with the ALA/APA’s Salaries and Status of Library Workers Committee (SSLW) and helped revise the Better Salaries Toolkit that is in its fifth edition; it is a valuable tool for library managers and library workers to request adequate funding and salaries.  Through her leadership role, Swader has organized the annual National Library Workers’ Day initiative highlighting the library workers’ contributions to library operations, with the slogan, “Libraries Work Because We Do.” This program has greatly increased awareness of the library employees’ contributions to their communities. Swader has also been a consistent guiding force on the ALA Committee on the Status of Women in Librarianship. She has used social media in promoting the Committee’s work to support numerous projects, such as Women’s History Month outreach program and Caregivers’ Toolkit. Through these projects, Swader guided numerous ALA committees in support of projects that promoted diversity and inclusion. In guiding the ALA/APA’s Certificate Program, Swader has been a driving force for having the course of Diversity and Inclusion in the certificate program that helps increase the competency and knowledge and skills for library managers facing demographic changes in their serving communities.  One nomination letter states that “many colleagues within ALA have benefited from Lorrelle’s expertise and influence.” Swader’s dedicated work to advocate for the library workers’ equitable salaries, her unwavering support to numerous ALA/APA committees that promote library workers’ contributions, and her guidance for including diversity and inclusion in the ALA/APA’s certificate program have had influential and positive impact to our profession.

The award will be presented Sunday, June 23 in Washington D.C. during the American Library Association Annual Conference.

The deadline for submission of applications for the 2020 Equality Award is Feb. 1, 2020.  Guidelines and applications are available on the ALA website.