PLA Awards & Grants

PLA Awards ribbon imageFor decades, PLA’s awards program has honored those providing public library service whose vision and accomplishments are extraordinary and deserve recognition. In 2021, PLA leadership revisited the number, purpose, and impact of the awards. PLA staff is currently planning the next iteration of our awards program, but we don’t have a timetable as to when the new program will be unveiled. We recommend you bookmark this page for the most up-to-date information.

In the meantime, we encourage you to share information on your exemplary programs, colleagues, and communities so that we can highlight them in PLA E-news, Public Libraries Online, and elsewhere. For more information, email

Congratulations to the PLA 2020 Award Winners

Allie Beth Martin Award
2020 Recipient:
Beth Atwater
Collection Development Librarian
Johnson County Library (Overland Park, KS)

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
2020 Recipient:
McCracken County Public Library (Paducah, KY)

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
2020 Recipient:
Rivkah Sass
Library Director/CEO
Sacramento (CA) Public Library

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.

EBSCO Excellence in Rural Library Service Award
2020 Recipient:
Astor County Library (Astor, FL)

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
2020 Recipient:
Jonathan Newton (Greenville, SC)

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
2020 Recipient:
Oscar Grady Public Library (Saukville, WI)

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 in 2018 by Innovative.

New Leaders Travel Grant
2020 Recipients:

Tiffany Harkleroad
Youth Services Librarian
Butler Area (PA) Public Library

Crystal Snyder
Assistant Director/Community Engagement Librarian
Columbia (IL) Public Library

Katie Horner
Head of Circulation & Reference
Lake Bluff (IL) Public Library

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.

PLA Library Innovation Award
2020 Recipient:
Mill Valley (CA) Public Library

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.

Romance Writers of America Library Grant
2020 Recipient:
Ferguson (MO) Municipal 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.

The Singer Group Helping Communities Come Together Award
2020 Recipient:
Flint (MI) Public Library

Recognizes a public library’s ability to identify community needs specifically in times of crisis and division, and respond in creative and exemplary ways. The award consists of $1,000 and a plaque. Established in 2017. Sponsored by The Singer Group.

Public Libraries Feature Article Contest

2021 Feature Article Contest
For articles published in 2020

Mary Jo Finch, Director, Westbank Community Library, Austin, Texas, “Learning From Our Statistics – Twelve Simple Rules for Understanding and Using Our Numbers Better

Honorable Mention:
Marissa Bucci, Youth Services Librarian, The Ferguson Library, Stamford, Conn.; Jay Janoski, Assistant Director, Westhampton Public Library, Westhampton Beach, New York; Nicole Scherer, Assistant Director, Nassau Library System, New York, “Define & Design: The Bookstore Model of Customer Service

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