The American Library Association (ALA) announced the 10 winners of this year’s I Love My Librarian Award on December 10. Recipients were nominated by patrons nationwide for their profound impact on the lives of families, students, teachers, and information seekers in their communities.
“Our nation’s librarians serve the needs and aspirations of their communities by promoting education, employment, entrepreneurship, empowerment, and engagement,” said ALA President Wanda Kay Brown. “Congratulations to this year’s I Love My Librarian Award recipients, who represent the highest qualities in social service and transform lives every day.”
Winners will each receive a $5,000 cash prize, a plaque, and a travel stipend to attend the I Love My Librarian Award ceremony during ALA’s Midwinter Meeting & Exhibits in Philadelphia on January 25. The event will stream via Facebook Live.
This year’s recipients include three academic, three public, and four school librarians.
Subject Librarian for History, Latin American Studies, and Romance Languages
University at Albany, New York
Alonso-Regalado is acknowledged for his work in supporting information literacy through his “Librarian with a Latte” program—in which he provides one-on-one reference assistance in the campus coffee shop—and his commitment to ensuring access to textbooks regardless of a student’s ability to pay. He offers workshops in Spanish as well as English to make his courses accessible to as many students as possible. Faculty consider him a selling point for prospective hires, arranging for job candidates to meet with him during their campus visits.
Students and faculty say they have grown as researchers thanks to Alonso-Regalado’s knowledge and enthusiasm. As one nominator puts it, “The University at Albany library is a better, more intellectually stimulating, and more inclusive place when Jesús is there.”
School Librarian/Tech Integration Specialist
Bertrand (Neb.) Community School
Dannehl teaches at the cutting edge of technology: children learn, play, and create using state-of-the-art tools like mixed-reality headsets, architecture software, and 3D printers. One teacher writes, “With the help of Mrs. Dannehl, I have been able to take my kids to the Great Wall of China, Antarctica, and the coral reefs off the coast of Australia. This has opened up a new world to our students.”
With her “Tech on the Deck” program, Dannehl shows parents and families how to use the technology students work with at school. While not everyone in the community may feel comfortable using computers, colleagues say Dannehl’s enthusiastic and approachable teaching style allows people to learn about apps and devices in a relaxed setting. She also invites members of the community—from bakers to stay-at-home parents to business owners—to visit the school library as “guest readers,” modeling lifelong learning and a love of reading for students.
Director of Libraries
James Frederick Smith Library, St. Mary’s Episcopal School, Memphis, Tennessee
Nominators cited Evans’s work in making the James Frederick Smith Library a space where students feel comfortable exploring difficult subjects. She launched the “Fireside Chats” series, in which students lead conversations with their peers and teachers on sensitive issues like gun control and Confederate monuments; school leaders credit this program with building a more supportive, courageous culture across the school. Evans also collaborated with the school’s guidance counselors to develop a collection of self-help books on topics like anxiety and eating disorders.
At “Cupcakes and Cool Reads” Evans invites teachers, coaches, and administrators to share their favorite books (and baked goods) with students, modeling how adults from all walks of life are passionate about reading. She also hosts a “College Libraries 101” program for graduating seniors, where students get to know their future college library’s website and even Skype with their soon-to-be librarians. As one colleague writes, “Cathy lives as an example for other budding scholars.”
Powhatan (Va.) High School
Inspired by her enthusiasm and dedication, Glanden’s colleagues have dubbed her an “evangelibrarian.” In two years, she has transformed the physical space of Powhatan High School (PHS) Library Learning Commons, converting her own office into welcoming makerspace and hub for creativity. She also secured grant funding to create flexible seating areas featuring flip tables to ensure the space would meet the student body’s varied needs.
Glanden worked with PHS’s carpentry classes to build Little Free Libraries around the city and collaborated with PHS students and Powhatan County Public Library to bring a day of STEAM learning to area preschoolers using a 3D printer from the school makerspace. She has also strived to promote a culture of literacy for readers of all levels, curating collections of hi-lo books, novels in verse, graphic novels, and manga.
Mary Anne Hansen
Research Services Librarian
Montana State University, Bozeman
As the lead coordinator for Montana State University (MSU) Library’s Tribal College Librarians Professional Development Institute (TCLI), Hansen provides much-needed support to librarians at tribal colleges, as well as those serving Indigenous populations at nontribal institutions. Over the past decade, Hansen has secured more than $800,000 in grant funding to cover travel costs for attendees and speakers at TCLI’s annual conference.
She also promotes equity and inclusion within MSU through her involvement in campus Indian Education for All events and diversity fairs, as well as serving as a founding member of the MSU Common Threads Network of Indigenous Communities’ Research Partners. “Mary Anne’s dedication to serving all with kindness and sensitivity is clear in every aspect of her librarianship,” one nominator writes, “but it is most evident in the energy and attention she has given for so many years to the learning and engagement needs of tribal college librarians.”
Executive Director, The American Place
Hartford (Conn.) Public Library
Naficy directs Hartford Public Library’s nationally recognized program The American Place, which helps provide services to assist immigrants and refugees as they transition to their new home, including English language classes, job assistance, computer training, and GED preparation. She also partnered with Hartford’s United States Citizenship and Immigration Services office, helping the library became the first in the nation to be accredited to provide legal services to immigrants.
In addition, Naficy developed the “Crossroads to Connectivity” program, which offers low-income adults enrolled in educational or training programs access to a laptop and mobile Wi-Fi device. Forty percent of Hartford residents do not have broadband internet services at home, so the project has been critical in helping participants continue their education and professional development.
Kids’ World Assistant Manager
Arlington Heights (Ill.) Memorial Library
Papanastassiou is recognized for her efforts to transform Arlington Heights Memorial Library into a welcoming community hub for children with special needs and their families. She partnered with local nonprofit CITY (Children in Therapy and You) of Support to provide playgroups for children with Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, sensory processing disorder, and language delays. “Maria’s inclusive and warm nature help these somewhat isolated families feel more confident in their ability to participate in and enjoy library programs,” writes Beth Deiter, founder of CITY of Support.
To help parents and caregivers connect with developmental therapists in an informal setting, Papanastassiou developed “Our Time: Caregivers, Coffee, and Play.” She also instituted “Early Open for Families,” so that children with special needs could experience exhibits in an intimate, quiet setting before the library opens its doors to the general public.
Interim Director, John D. MacArthur Campus Library
Florida Atlantic University, Jupiter
Plocharcyzk launched the first book club for adults with intellectual disabilities (ID) at an academic library. To meet students where and how they learn, she incorporates educational games and fun activities like movie viewings and pizza parties to help students learn in an interactive and cooperative way. The book club has become so popular that the library has added new groups to accommodate demand. Through her work with the book club, Plocharcyzk has contributed to academic research on special education. “It is in her book club for those with ID that Leah’s blend of vision, managerial skill, and compassion truly realized itself,” writes one nominator.
Her commitment to community, inclusion, and scientific inquiry also led to a collaboration with marine biologists on an experiment studying dolphin migration patterns. Based on her work, Plocharcyzk was recommended by her supervisors to attend the 2016 Leadership Institute for Academic Librarians at Harvard Graduate School of Education.
San Francisco Public Library
Tom is honored for her innovative “Death and Dying” program series, which helps community members deal with grief and dispels the fears around discussing our mortality. The series includes panel discusscusions, YouTube videos, and games designed to inform and provide resources and support. One of her nominators writes, “Janet brings taboo subjects out of the dark and presents them with care and respect.”
In addition, Tom organizes programs that help residents expore nutrition and healthy living and has expanded the library’s collection of health and medical resources and programs to cover subjects such as accupuncture, yoga, herbs, vegetarian cooking, and alternative medicine. She also helps coordinate the annual San Francisco Chinese Alzheimer’s Forum, a Cantonese/English bilingual seminar for elders and their caregivers, that brings together everyone from medical experts to social workers to speak about the latest developments in Alzheimer’s research and resources.
Library Media Specialist
H. Grady Spruce High School, Dallas
Walker-Reed is a champion for literacy, inclusion, and accessibility, developing programs to meet the needs of underserved high school students. Instead of closing the library’s doors at the end of the school day, Walker-Reed offers an extra hour of peer tutoring for students. She created the “Study Buddies” program, which helps students in lower-level reading classes develop their skills with confidence.
She also opens the school library to children and families in the neighborhood so they can borrow books. Her efforts to foster a love of reading have expanded the library’s collection to include books of different interests, genres, and reading levels. To encourage reluctant readers, she provides students with access to digital books as well as print materials. She also ensures the library is filled with diverse books that appeal to young people.
Since 2008, library supporters have shared more than 19,000 nominations describing how librarians have gone above and beyond to connect them to information, educational opportunities, and critical technology. ALA received 1,974 nominations for this year’s award, detailing the incredible achievements of librarians across the country and highlighting the indispensable role librarians play within their communities, schools, and campuses.
Carnegie Corporation of New York sponsors the I Love My Librarian Award; New York Public Library and The New York Times are cosponsors. ALA administers the award through its Communications and Marketing Office, which promotes the value of libraries and librarians.
Information regarding previous award winners can be found on the I Love My Librarian website.