Loretta Parham Acceptance Speech

Left to right: Irene M. H. Herold, ACRL President; Loretta Parham, 2017 ACRL Academic/Research Librarian of the Year and CEO and Director, Atlanta University Center Robery W. Woodruff Library; Mark Kendall, Senior Vice President and Chief Revenue Officer, GOBI Library Solutions from EBSCO

2017 Recipient of ACRL's Academic/Research Librarian of the Year Award

My mother always shared with everyone about her experience as a child, in a generation and time when African American children were not considered equal and could not enter the public library to get a book to read. She was one of 12 children raised on a working farm, and the only one to complete college. While I was in elementary school my mom taught 2nd grade and went to school at night at Western Reserve, now Case, to obtain her library degree.

Her passion for reading and her commitment to making books and literature easily available to children and adults, but especially Black children who like herself had not as a child ever been introduced to fairy tales or to Newberry and Caldecott quality books. My mom loved children and she dedicated her life to bringing the world to children, whether they lived in Hyde Park or Cabrini Green in Chicago, or in Kinsman Heights or on Chester Boulevard in Cleveland Ohio.

It was my mothers work ethic that served as my model and taught me to get up every day and arrive on time, or better yet, ahead of time; and to begin the day the moment you step over the threshold, to respect others and to measure one’s expectation of others and to achieve nevertheless.

My mother, Amanda Sullivan Randle Rudd left this world in February this year at 93 years. She was the first and the only female and African American to serve as the Commissioner of the Chicago Public Library and earlier as an Assistant Director of School Libraries in Cleveland. There were several other “firsts” for her; but more so she was the person that guided me to this career and profession.

Ours is an essential profession that believes and demonstrates the importance of information, literature and research, the significance of preservation, intellectual freedom and access for all. It’s a great profession that has rewarded me and introduced me to thousands of very smart, passionate and yes, fun librarians and library supporters such as those of you in this ballroom today. I am so happy to be counted among you. This is a first you know, a first time for recognition of a librarian from one of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) libraries. There are many more that are deserving and who I hope we will see on this stage in forward years.

So, I first thank my mom for being a great role model. I thank my 3 children, my grandchildren and my wonderful husband James, for their support and their advice along the way all these many years that I have worked in this profession. I thank also the Association of College and Research Libraries and its leadership, and GOBI Library Solutions for their sponsorship of this recognition. I especially appreciate the work of the Selection Committee and the many friends and associates who I understand submitted glowing letters of support.

I add to this list of appreciation, the members of the Oberlin Group, the HBCU Library Alliance, the students, faculty and staff of the four member institutions that are served by my library: Spelman College, Morehouse College, Clark Atlanta University and the Interdenominational Theological Center. Last but never least I thank and I share this recognition with the dynamic, dedicated and expert staff of the Atlanta University Center Inc., Robert W. Woodruff Library.

In closing, I ask that we all continue to find new ways each day to recognize those who surround us, to take the risk of going beyond our comfort zones, to appreciate what has happened but by all means open up to what is possible. People and access and information and what we do, really matters. Thank you for this honor!

Now…I’m going to Disneyland!

L. Parham