PLA Awards and Grants

PLA Awards ribbon imagePLA’s awards programs has been designed to honor those providing public library service whose vision and accomplishments are extraordinary and deserve recognition.

Congratulations to the PLA 2017 Award Winners

PLA President Felton Thomas, Jr., 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 24, 2017, at the 2017 ALA Annual Conference in Chicago, Ill.

Allie Beth Martin Award
2017 Recipient: Maureen Millea Smith, Librarian, Hennepin County (Minn.) Public Library
Honors a librarian who, in a public library setting, has demonstrated extraordinary range and depth of knowledge about books or other library materials and has distinguished ability to share that knowledge. A plaque and a $3,000 honorarium are presented annually at the ALA Annual Conference. Established in 1977 in honor of Allie Beth Martin. Sponsored by Baker & Taylor.


Baker & Taylor Entertainment Audio Music / Video Product Award
2017 Recipient: East Berlin (Pa.) Community Library
Designed to provide a public library the opportunity to build or expand a collection of either or both formats in whatever proportion the library chooses. The grant consists of $2,500 of Audio Music or Video Products. Sponsored by Baker & Taylor.


Charlie Robinson Award
2017 Recipient: Valerie Gross, President & CEO of the Howard County (Md.) Library System
Honors a public library director who, over a period of seven (7) years, has been a risk taker, an innovator and/or a change agent in a public library. The recipient should have been active in national and other professional associations and be known for developing and implementing programs which are responsive to the needs of community residents. The award consists of $1,000 and a gift. The public library director will be honored at the ALA Annual Conference. Established in 1997. Sponsored by Baker & Taylor.


Demco New Leaders Travel Grant
2017 Recipients: Jane Blue, Branch Librarian, Andrews (N.C.) Public Library; April Hernandez, Director, Lincoln (Kan.) Library; Daniel Ng, Adult Programming Librarian, Fresno County (Calif.) Public Libraries
Designed to enhance the professional development and improve the expertise of public librarians new to the field by making possible their attendance at major professional development activities. Plaques and travel grants of up to $1,500 per applicant are presented annually at the ALA Annual Conference. Established in 1993. The name of this grant was changed in October 2004. This grant is sponsored by Demco, Inc.


EBSCO Excellence in Rural Library Service Award
2017 Recipient: David A. Howe (N.Y.) Public Library
Honors a public library serving a population of 10,000 or less with an upper per capita income limit of not more than the 75th quartile of the national average that demonstrates excellence of service to its community as exemplified by an overall service program or a special program of significant accomplishment. A plaque and a $1,000 honorarium are presented annually at the ALA Annual Conference. Established in 1991. Sponsored by EBSCO Information Services.


Gordon M. Conable Award
2017 Recipient: Vanessa Strange, Librarian, Spokane County (Wash.) Library District
Honors a public library staff member, a library trustee, or a public library, that has demonstrated a commitment to intellectual freedom and the Library Bill of Rights. The award consists of $1,500 and a plaque to be presented annually at the ALA Annual Conference.


John Iliff Award
2017 Recipient: Charles Pace, Executive Director, Gwinnett County (Ga.) Public Library
Honors the life and accomplishments of John Iliff, early adopter and champion of technology in public libraries, and recognizes the contributions of a library worker, librarian, or library that has used technology and innovative thinking as a tool to improve services to public library users. The award provides a $1,000 honorarium, a plaque and a bouquet of roses for the workplace. Sponsored by Innovative.


Romance Writers of America Library Grant
2017 Recipient: Philipsburg (Mont.) Public Library
Designed to provide a public library the opportunity to build or expand its romance fiction collection and/or host romance fiction programming. The grant consists of $4,500 to be used toward the purchase of books in print and/or audio format, author honorariums and travel expenses, and other applicable program expenses. Sponsored by the Romance Writers of America.


Upstart Innovation Award
2017 Recipient: Brampton Library, Brampton, Ont., Canada
Recognizes a public library’s innovative and creative service program to the community. A plaque and a $2,000 honorarium are presented annually at the ALA Annual Conference. Sponsored by Upstart, a Demco company.


Other Awards

Public Libraries Feature Article Contest

  • First Place: Joel A. Nichols, the Free Library of Philadelphia (Pa.), for his feature article "Serving All Library Families in a Queer and Genderqueer Way” (January/February 2016)
  • The honorable mention and $300 prize winner will be chosen via a contest on the Public Libraries Online Facebook page; details are to come.

Awards cash prizes to the authors of the best feature articles written by public librarians and published in the previous year’s issues of Public Libraries magazine.


Contact Us

If your organization is interested in sponsoring a PLA award or if you have any questions regarding awards, please contact us at 312-280-5752 or pla@ala.org.