Chapter 7: Awards

*Note that because of procedural changes, these policies and procedures are currently under review. Questions should be directed to RUSA Executive Director, Jessica Hughes,

RUSA awards recognize outstanding achievement by individuals and/or institutions in the library profession. These awards honor librarians, publishers, libraries, and authors for significant current or past achievements such as publications, program development, and leadership in the profession. All RUSA awards must conform to the guidelines contained in the Awards Manual of the American Library Association. Awards include a citation and/or a cash award. RUSA awards may be made to individuals or groups. Depending on the terms of the award, recipients need not necessarily be members of RUSA.

Information on submission and applications forms is available from the RUSA office. The deadline for application for most awards is in December. Awards are presented at the following ALA Annual Conference. For information about current committees and past award recipients, go to the Awards page of the RUSA Web site.

Juried award lists, such as The Notable Books List and The Reading List are not dependent upon this policy as no formal award is given. For lists such as Notable Book List and The Reading List, administration is set by the section overseeing the list and not by the RUSA Award Coordinating Committee.

Awards Coordinating Committee

The RUSA Awards Coordinating Committee consist of a small executive board made up of committee chair, RUSA Director-at-Large liaison, two appointed members who have past award experience, and the RUSA Staff liaison. This group meets at each ALA conference to plan, direct, and coordinate award activities, shepard new awards as needed, and the plan the RUSA Annual Award Program. The chairs of all division and section award committees form the larger committee and meet at Annual (at the new chair orientation meeting) to review processes, get training, discuss potential new awards, and suggest actions for the executive board to consider. Section representatives are not appointed to the Award committee as each section is represented through their various award chairs.

Committee responsibilities:

RUSA awards may be administered at the section, committee, or division levels. Any committee administering a RUSA award is responsible for the following:

  • establishing the terms of the award, including the nomination criteria and selection process
  • publicizing the award and criteria for nomination
  • posting calls for award nominations on appropriate electronic discussion lists
  • identifying ways to encourage award applications
  • working to ensure a good pool of applications
  • nominating candidates for award consideration
  • selecting, notifying and announcing recipients of the award
  • compiling information for a press release about the recipient and forward it to the RUSA office
  • creating and maintaining an award committee manual

RUSA office facilitates the awards process:

  • writes the award citation (if one is to be presented) in coordination with the award committee chair. Citations should not exceed 150 words.
  • works with the donor(s) to ensure that support for the award remains available, and that the purpose of the award is agreeable to both the donor(s) and to RUSA
  • reviews the purpose and procedures of the award

RUSA staff responsibilities:

RUSA staff will assist committees with the awards process. RUSA staff are responsible for the following:

  • assisting in the establishment of any new awards by providing information on current RUSA awards and interpretation of award policies and procedures
  • ensuring that RUSA awards are publicized along with other ALA awards
  • assisting with printing of citations and by preparing plaques and any other materials needed for an award
  • ensuring that awards are periodically reviewed by the RUSA unit responsible for their administration

Designated RUSA Awards Committees review applicants and nominees for the respective awards. Although work may take place year round, final selection of award winners is made at a closed meeting of the committee at the ALA Midwinter Meeting (or virtually as deemed appropriate by the chair). Awards committees must strictly adhere to the selection criteria established for the award. All RUSA award winners are announced on the RUSA webpage, on RUSA-L, in RUSA Update, and on the RUSA blog. RUSA award winners are announced selectively in RUSQ. All RUSA award procedures stipulate that committees should not be compelled to make awards in years when suitable candidates have not been identified.

Cash recognition awards should not be less than $3,000 unless specially released from this requirement by either the section executive committee or the RUSA Board.

Recurring funding for an award must include an amount to cover the costs of the award's administration. The administrative funding is used to cover the cost of publicity, plaques, and to reimburse RUSA staff time.

Award donors must be willing to provide sufficient funding to cover the cost of the award and its administration.

The amount of administrative funding needed for an award should be determined in consultation with RUSA staff prior to the establishment of an award and is currently set at a minimum of 20 percent of the award amount not to exceed $1,000.

Conference travel awards should not be less than $1,000 and must provide an annual administrative fee of $250.

Source: RUSA Board Jan., 2000; reaffirmed by RUSA Executive Committee, October, 2006

Unfunded Awards Policy

RUSA awards coordinating committee:
This Committee assists all the awards committees of the division by serving as a clearinghouse for information about awards policies and procedures. Members of this Committee provide orientation for new committee chairs. The Awards Coordinating Committee is also responsible for reviewing new award proposals before presenting them to the RUSA board for approval (when such approval is needed).

RUSA awards ceremony and reception at Annual:
RUSA award presentations are made at a special ceremony and reception during the ALA Annual Conference on Sunday evening.

Currently, the list of awards that are celebrated at the Annual event include:

Division level awards:
John Sessions Memorial Award
Reference Service Press Award
NoveList's Margaret E. Monroe Library Adult Services Award
Award for Excellence in Reference and Adult Services
Isadore Gilbert Mudge Award
RUSQ Reviewers

Global Financial Data Academic Business Librarianship Travel Award
Emerald Research Grant Award
Morningstar Public Librarian Support Award
BRASS SimplyMap Student Travel Award
Mergent Award for Excellence in Business Librarianship

Sophie Brody Medal
Dartmouth Medal
Zora Neale Hurston Award
Louis Shores Award

Achievement Recognition Award

ABC-CLIO Online History Award
Genealogy/History Achievement Award
Gale Cengage History Research and Innovation Award

RSS Service Achievement Award

STARS/Atlas Systems Mentoring Award
Virginia Boucher Distinguished ILL Librarian Award

RUSA book and media awards announcement at Midwinter:
A Midwinter Awards Reception is held to honor all the awards decided at Midwinter related to books, media, reviewing, and other book/media related activities. Some of these awards are also formally presented at the Annual awards ceremony (marked by an asterisk). At annual 2008, the RUSA Board approved an ongoing $3,000 to pay for this reception out of the RUSA budget each year.

Currently, the list of awards that are announced at the Midwinter event include:
Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction
Notable Books List
*The Zora Neale Hurston Award
*The Louis Shores Award
*The Sophie Brody Medal
Best Free Reference Websites (ETS)
*The Dartmouth Medal
Outstanding Reference Sources
Outstanding Business Reference Sources
Best Business Websites (BRASS)
Best Historical Materials 
The Reading List
The Listen List

Note: The Zora Neale Hurston award is grandfathered into the Midwinter event by the specific request of the funder at the time the award was created. The Zora Neale Hurston Award, Louis Shores Award, Dartmouth Medal and Sophie Brody Medal are all announced at Midwinter and presented at Annual Conference at the RUSA Achievement Awards Ceremony.

Establishing new awards:
Any RUSA committee, section or other group may propose the establishment of a new RUSA award. However, care should be taken to make certain that the purpose of each award is not duplicated. The number of RUSA awards should remain limited however to ensure that the prestige of each award is not diluted.

All proposed RUSA awards must be reviewed by the RUSA staff and must also be approved by the RUSA Awards Coordinating Committee, the RUSA Board of Directors and the ALA Awards Committee.

Typically, a proposal for a new award comes from a section. In that case, the Section Executive Committee must work with the RUSA office to formulate the new award and then approve the proposal before submitting it to the RUSA Awards Committee for review and approval. If approved, the proposal is submitted to the RUSA Board for approval. Once the section, Awards committee, and Board have approved the award, it must be submitted to the ALA Awards committee in keeping with their policy and procedures for approval.

If the proposal does not come from a section, then the proposers must work with the RUSA office to formulate the new award and then the RUSA Board must approve it before it is submitted to the RUSA Awards Committee for review and approval. The proposal must be re-approved by the RUSA Board if any chances were made to the proposal before it can be submitted to the ALA Awards committee.

As noted above, juried award lists, such as The Notable Books List and The Reading List are not dependent upon this policy as no formal award is given. The same would apply to section certificate awards such as ETS Achievement Recognition Award.

Proposals for new awards should include the following information:

  • name of award. The name should reflect the nature of the award and also recognize the donor.
  • definition and criteria of award. Specify the person(s) or group(s) eligible to receive the award, the purpose(s) for which the award will be given, and a brief outline of the criteria
  • number and frequency of award. Designate the number of possible recipients
  • selection of committee to administer the award. Indicate the person who appoints the committee to administer the award. Include particular group or groups, if any, from which committee members will be chosen. State the number of committee members and any special qualification needed by the jury members.
  • deadline for nomination of candidates. Specify the form that nominations may take as well as the method for delivering nominations (such as by mail, web page, email, phone, etc.). The deadline for nomination should be December . The dates of the Midwinter Meeting may affect the exact date nominations are due.
  • screening of candidates and recommendation. Indicate the means used to determine the selection of the award recipient.
  • presentation of the award. Specify dates for the announcement and presentation of the award. All RUSA Awards should be presented at the RUSA Awards Ceremony at the subsequent ALA Annual Conference.
  • form and/or type of award. Designate the form and/or type of award to be given (cash, citation, medal, etc.).
  • donor. Specify the individual, group, institution, etc. who will provide funds for any cash award, as well as the overhead costs necessary to administer the award.
  • contact person. Include the name, address, telephone number, and email address of the sponsor.

All award proposals must be submitted to the RUSA Awards Committee Chair at least two weeks prior to the Award Committee's regular meeting at either the Midwinter or Annual Conference. New award proposals will require at least six months for review and administrative processing. The ALA Awards committee has its own criteria that must also be observed.

Reviewing awards:

Each award should be reviewed as part of the administering unit's regular review process. Each review should consider the appropriateness of the award's purpose, the criteria for nominations, procedures for selecting an award winner, and the adequacy of funding.

Modifying awards:

From time to time, the criteria for nomination, selection, or review of an existing award may need to be revised. Award committees may propose revisions when necessary. All revisions should take into account the original intent of the award, the impact of revisions on the potential applicant pool, and the potential impact on funding. Revisions must be approved by the RUSA Awards Coordinating Committee, RUSA Board, and the ALA Awards Committee.

Suspending awards:

Awards selection committees may request a suspension of an award if necessary. All suspension requests must be approved by the RUSA Awards Coordinating Committee, RUSA Board, and the ALA Awards Committee. Reasons for suspension typically include lack of a sponsor, inadequate funding, or a lack of eligible nominees.

Award Manuals:

Every section or RUSA Award should have an award manual that outlines the award criteria, history, selection procedures, and other pertinent information.

Awards Calendar


  • RUSA office prepares composite press release to call for award nominations.

September through November

  • Award Committee chair/members publicize the call for nominations, including posting the call to appropriate electronic discussion lists, contacting library schools, etc.


  • Deadline to submit award nomination for most awards.


  • Committee selects award recipient in closed session.

Two weeks after Midwinter

  • Chair notifies recipient and provides information on presentation time and requests high res headshot (b/w or color). Chair also notifies RUSA office of recipient. Chair submits “ALA Award Recipient Media Profile” to RUSA office. 


  • Chair submits citation copy (where applicable).


  • RUSA office notifies donors of award recipient and makes arrangement for check. Staff arranges for plaques and citations.


  • RUSA office plans logistics and attendance for event ceremony.


  • Chair notifies recipient of time, place and protocol for the award presentation.

Annual Conference

  • Sponsor presents award to recipient.

After Annual Conference

  • Chair forwards appropriate materials, manuals, etc. to incoming chair, including the names of unsuccessful nominees who might be considered in future years.