Susan Kusel is named Winner of 2023 ALA Equality Award.
For Immediate Release
American Library Association
Susan Kusel was selected to receive the 2023 American Library Association (ALA) Equality Award. The award consists of $1000, and a framed citation will be presented on Sunday, June 25, 2023, at the ALA Annual Conference in Chicago, IL
Susan tirelessly educates fellow librarians, adjacent professionals such as publishers and teachers, and the general public about Judaic literature, Jewish equity concerns, and the dangers of antisemitism. She has initiated multiple projects to ensure quality in Jewish children’s literature and to promote these titles as “window books” to help build bridges between the Jewish community and the wider world.
The Sydney Taylor Book Award has been presented at the Youth Media Awards since 2019 by the Association of Jewish Libraries, an ALA affiliate. Susan worked hard to bring about this partnership when she chaired the Sydney Taylor committee. This was in addition to the task of running the committee itself, which is a major force in promoting children’s and young adult books that authentically portray the Jewish experience.
Kusel, who has been a synagogue library director, a buyer for a bookstore, the owner of a consulting business, and an author, is being recognized as an energetic advocate for the minority concerns of Judaic librarianship, the Jewish patron community, and the ongoing struggle to have Jewish concerns included in diversity justice efforts. Jews are approximately 2% of the American population yet are the target of approximately 60% of religiously motivated hate crimes and antisemitism is sharply on the rise, making this an urgent area of concern.
Kusel has mentored 50+ fellow librarians over the last fifteen years and served on numerous committees for the Association of Jewish Libraries and ALSC, including the Sydney Taylor Book Award committee and the Caldecott Medal committee.
With Chava Pinchuck, and Heidi Rabinowitz, Kusel administers the Sydney Taylor Shmooze mock award blog. Chava Pinchuck. Over 30 reviewers evaluate board books, picture books, middle grade books, and young adult books of Jewish interest, according to the criteria of the Sydney Taylor Book Award. Kusel's goal was to raise awareness of the award and to get more people to think critically about Jewish children's literature. In addition, she wanted to provide a way for librarians, booksellers, and caregivers to easily find information about Jewish books. Since the blog was created in 2020, nearly 500 books have been reviewed. This project demonstrates Susan's passion for educating colleagues and the public, for EDI work that includes Jewish literature under the diversity umbrella, and for creating opportunities that encourage others in the profession to develop their own talents.
Her numerous presentations have included a joint Poster Session at ALA’s Annual Conference 2022 “A Place for Us: Working Towards Collaborative Inclusion in Librarianship,” keynote speaker at Highlights Foundation Symposium for Jewish Creatives and the National Council of Teachers of English 2022 "Into the Light of Diverse Jewish Children's Literature."
Other contributions include Jewish Kidlit Mavens, a Facebook group of 1,400 members formed by Kusel and Heidi Rabinowitz in 2019 to create a space where librarians, authors, publishers, booksellers, agents, educators, and others discuss issues related to Judaic children’s literature and librarianship.
The Equality Award, sponsored by Rowman & Littlefield, is awarded annually, in recognition of achievement for outstanding contribution toward promoting equality in the library profession, either by a sustained contribution or a single outstanding accomplishment. The award may be given for an activist or scholarly contribution in such areas as pay equity, affirmative action, legislative work and non-sexist education.
In addition to chair Dora Ho, Los Angeles Public Library (retired); the members of the 2023 Equality Award are: Skip Dye, VP library marketing & digital sales, Penguin Random House, New York, NY; Keahiahi S. Long, librarian, University of Hawaii, Honolulu, Hawaii; Shay Ramsey-Martin, children’s public service supervisor, Henrico County Public Library, Richmond, Virginia; and Robin Sofge, branch manager, Potomac Community Library, Woodbridge, Virginia.