On January 10 the American Library Association (ALA) announced the 10 winners of this year’s I Love My Librarian Award, nominated by patrons for their expertise, dedication, and profound impact in their communities. Three academic librarians, three public librarians, three school librarians, and one prison librarian are receiving the award this year.
“Even in these unprecedented times, our nation’s librarians continue to empower their patrons, promote inclusion in their spaces and collections, and provide essential services for their communities,” said ALA President Patricia “Patty” M. Wong in a statement. “Congratulations to this year’s I Love My Librarian Award winners, who impact the lives of those they serve every day.”
Each honoree will receive a $5,000 cash prize, a $750 donation to their library, and complimentary registration to LibLearnX. The virtual award ceremony will take place during the conference at 3:30 p.m. Central on Saturday, January 22, and will stream live on YouTube.
Community Programming Librarian
Arlington (Tex.) Public Library
After the library building closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Aceves became a bright light for library users in her community. She led weekly virtual programs on the library’s social media platforms, including a Spanish-language storytime program for children, keeping library users engaged and connected.
Throughout her time at Arlington Public Library, Aceves has facilitated activities and outreach initiatives that connect the library to local families. She helped implement the “Stories to Our Children” program, giving parents the opportunity to write and decorate books for their children to share their culture and heritage; leads the “Little Art” program in which families explore new art materials each week; and has organized programs to encourage health and wellness.
“Her commitment to community and bringing relevant programs to the community is amazing,” her nominators wrote.
Associate Dean of Library Services
Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, North Carolina
Cromartie has made the library at Western Carolina University a leader in diversity and inclusion efforts, notably. She developed and implemented a program that coaches faculty members on employing inclusive pedagogy in their courses and provides funding for classroom materials, as well as a library residency program to hire recent MLIS graduates and advance the recruitment and retention of underrepresented populations in librarianship.
She is hailed by her colleagues as a community builder, mentor, and outstanding librarian able to help researchers retrieve “the unretrievable,” and she has forged partnerships with offices across campus to highlight the relationships, contributions, and experiences of communities of color.
As one nominator wrote, Cromartie “stands as a beacon of inspiration for students, faculty, and staff and elevates the discourse around diversity, equity, and inclusion.”
Associate Professor and Curator of Archives and Special Collections
City College of New York in New York City
Gibbons guides students to academic success through his service at the City College of New York and across Harlem, notably through his involvement with Harlem Little League baseball, his forming of partnerships with local organizations, and his work with the university’s Black Male Initiative (BMI), a system-wide project that seeks to support educational success for students from groups underrepresented in higher education. As his nominator writes, “His work with the Black Male Initiative made it possible for many male college students to find a voice in a world not equipped to embrace them.”
As a professor, Gibbons also teaches graduate and undergraduate courses that dive deep into “things unseen” in Harlem’s history and facilitates students’ engagement with primary sources and archival collections.
Former Children and Family Services Librarian
For her work at Marion (Iowa) Public Library
Following a devastating derecho that affected the entire Marion area and forced the library to permanently close its doors, Greenlee provided vital services to the community, including assessing structural safety of homes, staffing temporary technology locations across the city, and starting a digital archive to collect and preserve stories of how the community was affected.
Greenlee developed and facilitated an array of diverse programming for the Marion community, including a special browsing hour to welcome patrons with sensory or behavioral needs, as well as the city’s first LGBTQIA+ Pride event, which featured a parade around the library, a drag queen storytime, and a panel with local organizations.
Greenlee recently assumed a new position as director of nearby Vinton (Iowa) Public Library but her positive impact on the Marion community remains.
“Her dedication to learning and people is something that shines through her and lights the way for others to follow in her path and continue the incredible work that she has begun,” her nominators wrote.
Decorah (Iowa) Middle School and High School
Horton has transformed the libraries at Decorah Middle School and High School into more welcoming environments that encourage reading and collaboration among students. She has worked to diversify the collection with books featuring LGBTQ characters and topics addressing racism and celebrating differences so all students can see themselves represented in the books available in their libraries.
As an advisor to the high school’s Racial Equity Union, Horton has helped guide students to educate their peers about their own experiences as part of a racial minority through creating lessons for younger students and building classroom libraries covering slavery and modern antiracist work for teachers in the district. Nominators called the project a “resounding success on many levels” for the school district.
Horton has also incorporated innovative study and collaboration spaces in the middle school library, acquiring grant funding for stationary bikes and a new makerspace program.
John Paul Mahofski
Eastern Correctional Institution in Westover, Maryland
During his time at Eastern Correctional Institution (ECI), Mahofski (or “Mr. M,” as most of his patrons know him) has introduced programs that have improved library and information services for the prison population he serves, notably creative writing, typing, and summer reading. For some programs, participants received a certificate of completion.
When the pandemic forced the library space to close, Mahofski pivoted library services to a bookmobile model, delivering materials and information requests to and from inmates multiple times a week. The bookmobile model was extended to similarly transport homework between teachers and students in ECI, and it was later adapted by other institutional libraries.
Mr. M “does everything in his power to make the brief time we have in the library an enjoyable and useful experience,” his nominator wrote.
Octavia Fellin Public Library in Gallup, New Mexico
By forging partnerships with community organizations and city departments across Gallup, Moe has greatly expanded the library’s reach. From health and career fairs to local festivals and movie theaters, the library is meeting people where they are and program attendance has continued to climb as a result.
Under her leadership, the library has offered thought-provoking programming covering historically sensitive topics to the city’s Indigenous community, including film screenings.
As one of her nominators wrote, “She has dissolved the walls of the library, creating a community platform for healing and cultural understanding through shared experiences.”
Director of the Center for Mason Legacies, History Librarian, and Associate Term Professor
George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia
As a dedicated historian, professor, and librarian, Oberle has worked to uncover the hidden racial histories of George Mason University and its namesake through his work establishing the university’s Center for Mason Legacies. The interdisciplinary and collaborative research center, housed in the university’s library, seeks to preserve and examine the legacy of George Mason IV, his ancestors and heirs, and the people he enslaved.
His work has resulted in new educational resources for the campus community, including a robust website that hosts an array of primary source materials and student projects and a memorial in the center of campus recognizing the individuals enslaved by George Mason.
“He works directly in the spaces combating erasure and suppression and inspires students and faculty alike as he does so,” his nominators wrote.
Librarian and Media Specialist
Forsyth School in St. Louis
After joining the Forsyth School, Pillot quickly centered sustainability in the library’s programming and instructional initiatives. Her efforts include storytimes focused on caring for the planet, teaching students to use information literacy strategies to evaluate recycling facts and myths, and planning a multiweek educational event focused on single-use plastics and plastic bag usage.
Pillot also sprang into action when the pandemic disrupted in-person learning for the school and neighboring communities. With public library spaces closed, she made sure the school’s collection was available to students and their families and created book bundles, each with 20–30 books, for students of all ages.
“Melissa Pillot is a collaborator and co-conspirator on all levels,” one of her nominators wrote.
Sul Ross Middle School in San Antonio
The culture of reading at Sul Ross Middle School has transformed because of Talamantes’s innovative programs and initiatives, notably the Rebel Bucks program, which implements a bookstore model through which books can be purchased with campus currency earned through positive classroom behavior. The program empowers students to read independently and build their own libraries at home.
Talamantes also cultivates learning outside of the library through the school’s urban gardening program, Ross Roots, where he uses team-building activities to teach students about healthy food alternatives and the benefits of physical activity. The program is especially impactful for the school, where food scarcity and childhood obesity are real concerns and create barriers to learning.
“Mr. T reminds our students daily of their worth and value by inspiring them to believe in themselves,” his nominators wrote.
Since 2008, library supporters have shared more than 20,000 nominations detailing how librarians and library workers have gone above and beyond to promote literacy, expand access to technology, and support diversity and inclusion in their communities. ALA received more than 1,300 nominations for this year’s award, showcasing the achievements of librarians and library workers across the country—particularly their efforts in equity, inclusion, and social justice. Carnegie Corporation of New York sponsors the I Love My Librarian Award. New York Public Library also supports the award. ALA administers the award through its Communications and Marketing Office, which promotes the value of libraries and librarians.
Read more about previous award winners on the I Love My Librarian website.