RUSA Award for Excellence in Reference and Adult Library Services

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Data Axle Solutions

Established in 1990, the RUSA Award for Excellence in Reference and Adult Library Services is a citation and $1,500* monetary award presented to a library or library system for developing an imaginative and unique resource to meet patrons’ reference needs. The resource can be a bibliography, a guide to the literature of a specific subject, a directory, a database, or any other project that has helped the library meet adults' reference needs. Tools, guides or databases that have been developed for reader’s advisory or adult service questions and needs are also eligible for the award. This award is sponsored by Data Axle Reference Solutions.

*Monetary award amounts are subject to change without notice and are contingent upon donor funding supplied at the time the award is presented.


  1. The nominee must be a library or a library system. The library or library system can be located in any nation.
  2. Neither nominators nor nominees need to be members of ALA or RUSA.
  3. Self-nominations are permitted. Letters of support will strengthen the submission.
  4. The President of RUSA is not eligible for the award during their term in office.

Evaluation Criteria

The award jury is composed of members of RUSA’s Achievement Awards and Grants Committee. Each nomination is evaluated using the following criteria (listed alphabetically):

  • Clarity of the description of the audience for the project or resource
  • Clarity of the description of the project or resource
  • Extent to which the project or resource meets an identified reference need
  • Imaginativeness, uniqueness, or innovativeness of the project or resource
  • Number of users who benefit from the project or resource
  • Quality of provided samples of the project or resource
  • Strength of letters of support

How to Submit a Nomination

Complete the RUSA Award for Excellence in Reference and Adult Library Services nomination form by February 23, 2024. The form asks for the following information:

  1. Nominator’s email address
  2. Nominator’s first and last name
  3. Nominee’s first and last name
  4. Nominee’s mailing address
  5. Nominee’s phone number
  6. Nominee’s email address
  7. Nominee’s current position
  8. Nominee’s memberships (ALA, RUSA, BRASS, CODES, ETS, HS, RSS, STARS, non-member)
  9. File upload of a letter of nomination stating in detail how the resource has contributed to meeting patrons’ or users’ reference needs. In particular, the letter should include:
  • A description of the resource and its format(s), for example, database, multi-media, etc.
  • A list of sources or related materials used to compile the resource.
  • The target audience for the resource, how it is promoted and the breadth of use or impact.
  • Criteria used in selecting material for inclusion. (If the resource is inclusive, please state so clearly.)
  • The scope and breadth of coverage, for example, the time and subject, of the resource.
  • An explanation of what makes the resource imaginative or unique.
  • A representative sample of the resource (or entry, pages, printout, links, etc.) must accompany the nomination.
  1. Additional documentation (optional)

Questions should be directed to the committee chair, Allan Kleiman,

Award Recipients

2023: Rebecca Clarke, Manager, Adult Services – St. Louis County Library

2022: Marie Concannon, Head, Government Information & Data Archives, University of Missouri Library (Interview)

2021: Sarah Qronfleh and Allison Ryall, Genealogy Services of Orange County Library System

2020: Jen Lemberger, MLIS, MPH, Programming Librarian, City of Santa Barbara Library

2019: Heather Holtzman, Paula Knipp, and Kassie Sherman from St. Petersburg College

2018: Toledo Lucas County Public Library

2017: Queensborough Community College (New York), for “The Jacket from Dachau” Libguide

2016: San José Public Library (SJPL), for the Virtual Privacy Lab

2015: Queens Library, for “Where in Queens?” database

2014: Northville District Library (Mich.) Northville Historic Records

2013: Palo Alto College Library’s (Calif.) Library a la Carte

2012: Richland County (South Carolina) Public Library Job Center

2011: NCPedia

2010: J.Y. Joyner Library Digital Collections, East Carolina University, for “Seeds of Change: The Daily Reflector Image Collection

2009: Robert A. Aken II, web administration librarian, and Reinette F. Jones, diversity and multicultural activities librarian, for University of Kentucky Libraries’ Notable Kentucky African Americans (NKAA) Database

2008: Digital Services, Libraries and Educational Technologies, James Madison University, for ”Research Databases and Resources,” Harrison (Va.)

2007: Springfield-Greene County Library, Springfield (Mo.)

2006: Orange County Library System, Orlando (Fla.)

2005: Smithsonian American Art Museum

2004: North Carolina State University Libraries

2003: Richmond (British Columbia) Public Library

2002: No recipient chosen this year

2001: University Library, University of Nebraska at Omaha

2000: Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center Library

1999: New Orleans Public Library

1998: Queens Borough Public Library

1997: Bay Area Library and Information System for “Jobsmart”

1996: Rochester (MI) Hills Public Library for their homepage on the Web

1995: Pikes Peak Library District for “Arts Database”

1994: Wichita Public Library for “The Legal Connection”

1993: Kalamazoo Public Library, Michigan, for its “Online Community Information Database”

1992: Morton Grove Public Library, Morton Grove, Illinois, for ORRIS (On-Line Ready Reference System)

1991: University of Arkansas Library, Fayetteville, for its “Arkansas Periodical Index”