Alachua County Library District, Connie Dowell and Theresa McMahan named winners of the 2006-2007 Sirsi-Dynix – ALA-APA Award for Improving Salaries

Contact: Jenifer Grady
For Immediate Release
February 26, 2007

Winners of the 2006-2007

Sirsi-Dynix – ALA-APA Award for Improving Salaries named

CHICAGO ‑ The ALA-APA: the Organization for the Advancement of Library Employees (ALA‑APA) is pleased to announce that Alachua County Library District (Fla.), Connie Vinita Dowell (San Diego State University) and Theresa McMahan (Sullivan County Library System, Tenn.) are the winners of the third annual SirsiDynix‑ALA‑APA Award for Outstanding Achievement in Promoting Salaries and Status for Library Workers.

The award is given to an individual, group of individuals or institution that have made an outstanding contribution to improving the salary and status of library workers in a local, regional or national setting. Alachua County will receive $2500, Dowell $1500 and McMahan $1000 in appreciation of their work on improving salaries in their libraries.

Alachua County Library District (ALCD) impressed the award jury because it conducted a detailed compensation study that resulted in salary adjustments for all staff. In 2006, ALCD had the support of its board to bring base line salaries up to a fair living wage, to raise the base of all other positions and to give an increase of 2% to all staff who were already within the new pay grade range. For example, entry-level librarians base pay increased 11.5% to $36,000. ACLD also worked with the Alachua County Equal Opportunity Office and Human Resources to increase minority recruitment and to improve hiring practices and internal opportunities for minority applicants.

ALCD is a large public library, serving 241,000 citizens in and around Gainesville, Fla. “We have been a leader in public library services in Florida for many years,” said ACLD Director Sol Hirsch, who was one of three who nominated his district. “But until we made the effort to address fair compensation and have a staff that is representative of the community we serve, we could never be a great library. We are proud that the Alachua County Library District is now on that path.” Dani Burrows, public relations and marketing director and Suzi Blaze, administrative services administrator also nominated ALCD.

Connie V. Dowell, dean of the San Diego State University (SDSU) Library and Information Access Department, worked proactively in a public university setting to find ways to reward and recognize deserving employees who took on additional duties and responsibilities during hard economic times. According to jury member Barbara J. Ford, “Ms. Dowell shows what can be done in a public university setting through the use of political savvy, dogged persistence, personal sacrifice, collaborative know‑how and good data‑gathering to achieve salary successes.”

The jury was struck by the nominations, which came from a variety of supporters: Dr. Glenda Thornton, director of Cleveland State University Library (Ohio); Jon E. Cawthorne, associate dean, SDSU Library; and Tyrone Cannon, dean, University of San Francisco Library. They lauded how Dowell, during a severe recession, retained, reclassified and promoted library employees and increased the pay for those whose responsibilities had shifted. Dowell worked proactively with unions. Her active and open communication style with library staff, faculty and administrators promoted the importance of recognizing employee efforts. SDSU serves 34,000 students.

Theresa McMahan was called “a visionary [who] is changing the way people look at the library” by Jo McDavid, branch manager of the Colonial Heights Branch of Sullivan County Library System, which serves the 150,000 + citizens of Blountville, Tenn. Margaret Elsea, library manager, said that McMahan pushed for raises for librarians, catalogers and part-time staff when she was assistant director. McMahan informed the Board and County Commissioners about the duties of her staff, raising their status and laying the groundwork for the increases after a county-initiated salary study.

As director of Sullivan County Library System, McMahan pushed for and achieved higher, sometimes significantly higher, salary increases than those recommended by the salary study. Jury member John Jessee noted that McMahan “saw a problem and went to the movers and shakers and educated them.”

A breakfast will be held to honor the winners at the American Library Association Annual Conference in June in Washington, DC. The next award cycle will begin in October 2007, though nominations may be submitted now. Watch the ALA-APA Website for details -

The jury members were Barbara Ford, chair, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; John Jessee, Jacksonville Public Library (Fla.); and Peter McDonald, Fresno State University (Calif.). This award is given annually, thanks to a contribution from SirsiDynix, the global leader in strategic technology solutions for libraries.

The recipient of the award does not have to be an ALA member or a current or past library staff member. The requirement is that the award recipient’s achievement(s) has been notable. Officers of the ALA or the ALA-APA are not eligible for the award, nor are members of the ALA-APA SirsiDynix Awards Jury, ALA-APA Standing Committee on the Salaries and Status of Library Workers or employees of SirsiDynix.

ALA-APA: the Organization for the Advancement of Library Employees is a service organization to the American Library Association and the library community. It has two missions: advocacy for salary improvement efforts and providing certification in specializations of librarianship.