Chapter 7: Awards

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RUSA awards recognize outstanding achievement by individuals and/or institutions in the library profession. These awards honor librarians, publishers, libraries, organizations, and authors for significant current or past achievements such as publications, program development, technology 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 are of three kinds and 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.

Types of Awards

  1. Scholarship/Travel Awards. This category of awards comes with a monetary award for recipients to perform research or travel to a conference. See the rules below about levels of funding.
  2. Achievement/Recognition Awards. This category of awards may or may not come with a monetary award. Generally they are given for service or contributions to the profession either by an individual or a group.
  3. Juried Lists of Resources. This category generally does not include any monetary award, but recognizes the “best” of resources in a field or on a topic.

Information on submission and application is available on the RUSA website. Many applications are also linked on the Awards and Grants page on the ALA website or are linked in the press release and listserv posts.

The deadline for application for most scholarship and achievement awards is in December. These awards are presented either at the Book and Media Awards at Midwinter or at the following ALA Annual Conference. For juried lists of best sources, administration is set by the section overseeing the list and not by the RUSA Award Coordinating Committee. Selection timelines vary throughout the year and do not have an application process. For information about current committees and past award recipients, go to the awards page of the RUSA website (

Awards Coordinating Committee

The RUSA Awards Coordinating Committee (ACC) consists of an executive board made up of a committee chair, two members at large who have past award experience with the committee, one representative of each Section, and the RUSA Staff liaison. This group meets on a regular basis as determined by the committee. Committee meetings can be virtually and/or in-person either prior or at the Midwinter Meeting and/or Annual Conference.

Managing Awards

The ACC reviews new award proposals from the sections, committees, or from RUSA, for completeness and clarity. Section awards are approved by a section’s board and then forwarded for review by the ACC. After communication with the proposers of the award, the ACC then forwards the award proposal to the RUSA Board for approval. Once approved, the RUSA Executive Director, working with the ACC, sends the award proposal to the ALA Awards Committee as prescribed in the ALA Awards Manual. Award proposals must be presented at a regular meeting of the ALA Awards Committee at least six months prior to the anticipated date of advertisement. Changes to existing awards follow the same process. See the general ALA Awards Committee info. See more below under Establishing New Awards.

On an as needed basis the committee will provide training for the chairs of all division and section award committees

Committee Responsibilities

Awards Coordinating Committee Responsibilities

  • Review a new or revised award before it is submitted to RUSA Board
  • Create and maintain an award committee manual
  • Establish guidelines for award application content and submission
  • Maintain a file of awards manuals and make sure they are updated
  • Supply information for the awards database
  • Acts as a clearinghouse for awards information about awards policies and procedures

Individual Section and Division 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. RUSA staff may help in this process.
  • posting calls for award nominations on appropriate electronic discussion lists. RUSA staff also may help in this process.
  • identifying ways to encourage award applications.
  • working to ensure a good pool of qualified 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, and filing a copy of that manual with the Awards Coordinating Committee and the RUSA Office.
  • regularly thanking the sponsor of the award

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 continuing support for the award, 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 in conjunction with the Awards Coordinating Committee.

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 preparing plaques and any other materials needed for an award.
  • ensuring that awards are periodically reviewed by the RUSA unit responsible for their administration.
  • maintaining the awards tracking database and entering data.
  • provide data to the ACC concerning the awards status, effectiveness, etc.

Selection and Presentation of Awards

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, and in RUSA Update. RUSA award winners are announced selectively in RUSQ. Sections are encouraged to present awards at appropriate section level meetings or other section events. RUSA level awardees will be recognized at the President's Program or other appropriate event. 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 $5,000.
  • 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.
  • 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 RUSA staff time.
  • Guidelines for funding:
    • Overhead for the award is set at a minimum of 20%, not to exceed $1,000.
    • Conference and travel awards should not be less than $1,000 and must provide an annual administrative fee of at least $250.
    • Scholarships should not be less than $3,000.

Unfunded and De-funded Awards

If an award loses funding by August 31st, it is considered unfunded and should follow the following procedures outlined in the Unfunded Awards Policy:

General Awards

  • Applies to all division and section awards, both recognition and travel/research support awards. Recognition awards may carry a cash award whereas awards for travel/research support provide funding to achieve the objectives set by the award.
  • Related ALA policy, see
  • RUSA Office will be responsible for: (1) coordinating a formal agreement to fund the award with potential sponsors, (2) verifying a new sponsor’s eligibility and (3) coordinating any necessary approvals with ALA. All new sponsors must be approved according to RUSA and ALA guidelines.
  • As part of award administration, RUSA office will confirm continuing sponsorship by Aug 31 and report on status changes to award committee chair, division/section leadership, and Awards Coordinating Committee.
  • RUSA Board makes final decisions on temporary funding or sunsetting/changes to award.

Recognition Awards

  • The sponsoring unit can request that RUSA fund the cash award for one year. The Board will decide whether funding is possible based on the budget.
  • If RUSA Board approves funding the cash award, the RUSA budget will absorb the administrative cost for one year to ensure continuity. RUSA will be the sponsor of the award that year. This entails changes to all publicity and operational documents. The sponsoring unit will work with the RUSA Office and the RUSA Development Liaison to secure new sponsorship. By the end of the year, if no new sponsor is secured, a decision should be made to sunset or update the award to attract new sponsorship.
  • If RUSA does not approve funding the cash award for one year, the award will be sunsetted.

Travel/Research Support Awards

  • If no new sponsor is secured by Aug 31 for the upcoming year, the award will automatically be suspended for that year while the committee/sponsoring unit will work with RUSA Office and the RUSA Development Liaison to secure a new sponsor. By the end of the year, if no new sponsor is secured, a decision should be made to sunset or update the award to attract new sponsorship. Source: RUSA Board Jan., 2000; reaffirmed by RUSA Executive Committee, October, 2006 Unfunded Awards Policy

Existing RUSA Awards

See RUSA Awards List, Complete, by division / section PDF

Establishing New Awards

Any RUSA committee or section 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 either in RUSA or in ALA at large. 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 Committee works both with the RUSA office and the Awards Coordinating Committee to formulate the new award.

Once the award submission is approved by the RUSA office and the Awards Coordinating Committee, the award moves to the RUSA Board for approval. Once approved by RUSA Board, the award advances to the ALA Awards Committee for final approval. No award may be advertised until it has received all required approvals.

Juried award lists, “best of lists,” and certificate awards are not dependent upon this policy as no formal award is given. They should still be sent to the RUSA ACC for consultation and review.

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. (The RUSA office adopted a new naming convention in 2017-2018. Sponsor name goes at the end. See the awards pages.)
  • 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.
  • 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.

New award proposals will require at least six months at the ALA level 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. If after 2 years there are no nominations, a review plan will be invoked in conjunction with the RUSA Office, RUSA Awards Coordinating Committee, and the Sponsor.

Award Manuals

Every section or RUSA Award should have an award manual that outlines the award criteria, history, selection procedures, and other pertinent information. These must be filed with the Awards Coordinating Committee and with the RUSA Office.

Ethics Statement

All awards are subject to honoring and operating under the Ethics Statement approved by RUSA Board in September 2021. This Ethics Statement is included in all RUSA award manuals.

Last updated February 11, 2019. To be updated by RUSA Awards Coordinating Committee.