Behind the Awards

January 25, 2010

Each year, the American Library Association seeks to honor those who have rendered distinguished service to libraries and librarianship. Such recognition is made for individual achievement of a high order in some area of librarianship. The winners of ALA awards for individual achievement constitute a "hall of fame" for librarianship.

But the men and women in whose honor the awards are named are often little known. This photo essay offers a glimpse into the lives of a few of the people who have had an award, scholarship, or other commendation named for them.  They include librarians, authors, illustrators, and civil rights workers. Not everyone included here had a direct impact on libraries or literature during their own lives, but all of them left their mark on the profession in some way.

This month, ALA launched a database organizing information about its full list of awards and recipients. The database can be used to explore the different awards that are offered, the past winners of awards, and how someone can apply for an award.


Coretta Scott King Book Award.  Coretta Scott King (1927 - 2006) is most famous for being the wife of Martin Luther King Jr., but she established a distinguished career in activism in her own right. She took part in the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955 and worked to pass the 1964 Civil Rights Act. She became the first women to deliver the Class Day address at Harvard and the first women to preach at a statutory service at St. Paul's Cathedral in London. King remained active in causes of racial and economic in
Michael L. Printz Award.  Michael L. Printz (1937 - 1996) worked at Topeka West High School for 25 years where he was the head librarian and implemented many innovative programs for the students. Among the programs he founded or co-founded are Interim Adventure, a program that allowed students to travel, an oral history program, and an author in residence program, which brought authors and students together for a two day workshop. Printz was also an active member of YALSA.
David H. Clift Scholarship.  David H. Clift served as the Executive Director of ALA from 1952 to 1972. Prior to his library career, Clift served in WWII, where he was assigned to the Office of Strategic Services Interdepartmental Committee on Foreign Acquisitions. He went to Yale University as Associate Librarian in 1945. While an Associate Professor at Yale he traveled in Europe to obtain books for The Library of Congress.
James Bennett Childs Award.  James Bennett Childs (1896 - 1977) worked at the Library of Congress for over 50 years, and was the author of numerous books and articles. He was recognized as the principal authority in the field of government publications, not only in the United States but throughout the world. Childs' contributions to the acquisitions and organization of government documents at the Library of Congress enabled it to become one of the world's greatest repositories of official publications.
Hugh C. Atkinson Memorial Award.  Hugh C. Atkinson (1933 - 1986) was an American librarian known for his innovations in library automation and cooperation. He served as director of libraries at Ohio State University from 1971 to 1976 and at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign from 1976 to 1986.    In 1967, Atkinson moved to Ohio State University where he served as head of public services (1967-71), and then as director of libraries (1971-76).
Mary V. Gaver Scholarship.  Mary Virginia Gaver (1906 - 1991) served as the president of ALA from 1966 to 1967. Gaver also served as the president of the American Association of School Librarians from 1959 to 1960 and the New Jersey School Library Association from 1954 to 1955. She was also an educator of librarians at several universities. Her longest tenure was at Rutgers University, where she taught from 1954 to 1971.
Justin Winsor Prize for Library History Essay.  Justin Winsor (1831 - 1897) began his library career in 1866, when he was appointed a trustee of the Boston Public Library. Previously, Winsor had been a freelance writer, but soon he became the superintendent of the library, a job he held until 1877. Winsor became a librarian of Harvard University that year, where, in combination with his years in Boston, he came to be regarded as a leading figure in the library profession. In 1876 Winsor helped to found ALA
The Amelia Bloomer Book List.  Amelia Jenks Bloomer (1818 - 1894) was a social reformer, women's suffrage activist, writer, and publisher. Remembered most for her contribution to women's clothing styles, she was a prominent women's rights advocate during the nineteenth century. Bloomer's husband, Dexter Bloomer, published the newspaper the Seneca Falls County Courier, which Bloomer wrote for, despite having little formal education. She struck out on her own with The Lily, a temperance newspaper, in 1849.


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