VLAC21 Award Winners

Every year at the annual conference, the Vermont Library Association presents five awards for outstanding service to and support of the state’s libraries. This year, we did something a little different.  Rather than ask people to nominate for our usual awards, we invited them to name their own awards. The results were entertaining and heartfelt.

The winners were announced during the conference, “Emerging Energized,” held online May 25, 26, 27, and June 1 and 2.  You can watch the awards ceremony recording here.

And the winners are…

Lauren Kelly, Technical Services Librarian, Stowe Free Library
“Six Feet Distanced and Silently Celebrating Graduate Degree” Librarian Award
Nominated by Cindy Weber, Director, Stowe Free Library
Lauren has been dedicated to her full-time job as Technical Services Librarian, while completing the requirements for her Master of Library Science degree. We would have normally celebrated her graduation with a staff night out, but were unable due to Covid. I am so proud of her, and in awe of her dedication to her profession. She deserves this nomination because she has followed Covid, mandates, achieved her goal, and humbly continued providing service to the community. A big heartfelt congratulations to Lauren Kelley.

Jean Wolfe, Librarian of 37 Years, Tunbridge Public Library
“The Sweetest Librarian This Side of the Mississippi (Maybe Both Sides)” Award
Nominated by Mariah Lawrence, Director, Tunbridge Public Library
Jean dedicated a large portion of her life to the community of Tunbridge and their library. We are all better because she did. Her knowledge and wisdom are appreciated by all. Thank you, Jean!

Marsha Higgins, Assistant Librarian, Tunbridge Public Library
“Assistant Librarian of the Pandemic and Best Person Ever to Share a Desk With”
Nominated by Mariah Lawrence, Director, Tunbridge Public Library
Marsha knows the readers in her library better than anyone else. She is an amazing teacher to all, is full of wisdom, and is enjoyable to be around. Her sense of humor, creativity, flexibility, and ability to stand her ground is inspiring to all.  The Tunbridge Library is lucky to have her.

The Trustees/Friends of Tunbridge Public Library
“The Best Trustees Ever” Award
Nominated by Mariah Lawrence, Director, Tunbridge Public Library
Anna, Theresa, Mark, Michael, and Anita go above and beyond in all that they do. Their love and support for the library is felt by all. Thank you, Tunbridge Library trustees!

Marsha Hoffman, Trustee, Treasurer, Volunteer, Friend of Bixby Memorial Free Library
“The Bixby Above and Beyond” Award
Nominated by Catharine Hays, Director, Bixby Memorial Free Library, Vergennes
Marsha has gone above and beyond this year as a trusted trustee, a dedicated and patient treasurer, a valued volunteer, a committed Friend, a compassionate advisor, and an all-around great, fun person.

Ed Place, Trustee Extraordinaire of Bixby Memorial Free Library
“Bixby Building and Tech Champion” Award
Nominated by Catharine Hays, Director, Bixby Library, Vergennes
During his tenure as a trustee, Ed has led Bixby out of the technology dark ages. This year, he continued to go above and beyond, helping us to further advance our connectivity and productivity for both staff and patrons. He also spearheaded major initiatives to assess the needs of our beloved but aging building, making us “shovel-ready” for the most important projects. In short, he is always there for us and we couldn’t be more grateful.

Becky Johnston, Assistant Director, Bixby Memorial Free Library
“Most Positive Attitude During the Pandemic” Award
Nominated by Catharine Hays, Director, Bixby Library, Vergennes
Becky just wouldn’t let the pandemic foil her ever-present warm, positive attitude, day in and day out. She was the one to ensure that the circ desk was covered, that patrons were happy, and that volunteers knew they were appreciated. Her social media posts kept all engaged and informed, and her can-do attitude powered through all of the operational challenges that Covid posed. We are grateful for ALL she does and the JOY with which she does it.

Jennifer Razee, Assistant Librarian, Pettee Memorial Library
“Most Weather-Hardy Librarian” Award
Nominated by Allison Maynard, Director, Pettee Library, Wilmington
Jennifer spent many months outside the library, checking people in and out and enforcing safety protocols, through many different types of weather, and always smiling (under her mask, of course).

Kathryn Plageman, Circulation and Technical Services, South Burlington Public Library
“The Curbside Queen” Award
Nominated by Kelly Kendall, Children’s Librarian, South Burlington Public Library
Kathryn created (and recreated, then recreated again) a curbside system that enabled South Burlington patrons to get print materials, e-books, audio books, information, and more through Covid-driven closures, two brief re-openings, and the upcoming move to our new library; all while answering the same three questions about the book drop.

Jessica Joyal, Cataloging Specialist, South Burlington Public Library
“The “Git ‘er Done!” Award
Nominated by Kelly Kendall, Children’s Librarian, South Burlington Public Library
For Jessica’s capacity to get things done with unfailing grace and humor under literally any circumstances.

Jennifer Murray, Library Director, South Burlington Public Library
“The Hats Off to You!” Award
Nominated by Kelly Kendall, Children’s Librarian, South Burlington Public Library
For grace under extreme pressure, and the successful wearing and juggling of multiple hats — including furniture and carpet choosing hats, Covid mitigation measures hats, a Seussian hat or four, and a “Bag N Wagon” hat.

Susan Bliss, Adult Services Librarian, South Burlington Public Library
“The Thoroughly Modern Millie” Award
Nominated by Kelly Kendall, Children’s Librarian, South Burlington Public Library
For Susan’s elegant editing, thoughtful processing, and grounded-in-science navigation.

Lucinda Walker, Director, Norwich Public Library
“I’ve Seen What She Does for That Library” Award
Nominated by Anonymous
Every library takes a village and this library is no different. For optimal service, it takes a willing and talented staff. This said, there are bones and brains behind the noticeable hours, and I happen to know that Lucinda puts in a lot of time, many hours at night, to “turn the spigot” in terms of library service so the community receives the most effective, efficient, and timely resources. During the pandemic year, if your library seemed quieter, it wasn’t. With a rare and gifted staff, often working from home, Lucinda worked three times harder in the estimation of one colleague. Here’s the thing: She does this joyfully. You don’t know what you have until a pandemic hits home. As a colleague, I’m endlessly inspired by her.

Awesome Colleagues of Norwich Public Library
“If It’s Wednesday, It Must be Time to Pivot” Award
Nominated by Lucinda Walker, Director, Norwich Public Library
Lisa, Beth, Nancy, Sydney, and Roger have all shown incredible creativity, flexibility and grace this past year. At our very first Zoom staff meeting in March 2020, everyone jumped in to create version 1.0 of Virtual NPL. Each week brought tweaks, changes, revisions, overhauls, and so, so, so much pivoting. But not once did they ever complain. The focus was maintaining library services in whatever way we could, following whatever rules were in place that week. They have done a tremendous job, and our patrons and community have taken note. I am so proud of them, and I am grateful for their ability to pivot while still smiling.

Jessie Lynn, Co-Director, Kellogg-Hubbard Library, Montpelier
“The Glue That Holds Us All Together” Award
Nominated by Anonymous
Jessie manages the nonprofit entity that is the Kellogg-Hubbard Library. Her work is often unseen, and frequently unrecognized. She keeps our 125-year-old building in shape, manages more than $150,000 of annual fundraising, makes sure we all get paid, have benefits and retirement plans, and manages every other piece of the business operations of the library. In her more than a decade at the library, she has sometimes been the only administrator; literally keeping the lights on for all of the librarians so that we can do our jobs. Thank you, Jessie, for your unflinching dedication to the KHL, your thoughtful stewardship, and your support.

The Whole Staff of Brownell Library
, Essex
“Librarians Who Rock” Award
Nominated by Anonymous
In this crazy year, staff managed library business while shorthanded, under pressure, with no definite answers, figuring out situations as they arose.

Staff and Board of Rutland Free Library
“Professional Service” Award
Nominated by Karen McCalla
The Rutland Free Library staff and board worked very hard to plan a possible expansion and relocation of the library to take advantage of a new community center and senior living facility on the old campus of the College of St. Joseph in Rutland. The plan would have provided a more modern, purpose-designed facility for less money than renovations to the current building, saving taxpayer money while expanding services. While many community members were excited about the plan, some vocal opponents have stalled action —  for now. The staff, leadership, and board of the library stayed positive throughout the entire process, modeled community outreach, and gave voice to all community members. The dialog was at times divisive and included personal attacks, but it was always handled professionally by all at RFL. All of this on top of maintaining top-quality service during a pandemic.

The Staff, Trustees, Friends, and Patrons of Pierson Library, Shelburne
“Weathering the Covid Storm with Aplomb” Award
Nominated by Anonymous
Everyone has been understanding, kind, resourceful, and creative — doing what they can, safely, to keep Shelburne reading, engaging , and meeting (Zooming, really) during the pandemic year.

Bob Joly, Executive Director, St. Johnsbury Athenaeum
“Best Director During a Pandemic” Award
Nominated by Anonymous
Bob has been a fabulous leader through the pandemic. Not only did he have us open to the public by June 2020, he has been concerned greatly with the safety and comfort of all the staff. He realizes the importance of our institution to the community (thus the quick reopening), while also making sure to have all safeguards in place, following state mandates and CDC recommendations. He checks in weekly with staff to see how we are feeling and how things are going. He checks community spread and numbers and does what is best for our community. He has made us feel safe at work, and he answers any questions or concerns with kindness and compassion.

Marie Schmukal, Director, Warren Public Library
“Best Person to Call at 5 p.m. on a Friday to Discuss Library and Life Matters Award”
Nominated by Bree Drapa, Director, Westford Public Library
She knows why! Marie is always gracious to lend a listening ear, make you laugh, and be the sounding board that small town librarians need. And, since we live basically parallel lives, it works.

Joshua Muse, Vermont Department of Libraries Library Consultant – Library Technology
Maker of Swoon-Worthy Charts and Master of Spreadsheets Award
Nominated by Bree Drapa, Director, Westford Public Library
Josh has kept us all informed through his weekly updates. When his spreadsheets became hard to look at, he was quick to make really awesome charts. Thank you for your hard work and flexibility.

Jodi Lew-Smith, Chair, Board of Library Trustees, Jeudevine Memorial Library
, Hardwick
“Courageous Leader of Our Expansion Project” Award
Nominated by Lisa Sammet, Director, Jeudevine Memorial Library, Hardwick
Even though we are in a pandemic, Jodi has led our library’s expansion project, writing grants, getting support, and leading a successful bond vote. Now, as the bids have come in with a 50 percent increase in cost, she keeps pushing on. She got the select board to agree to have us sign the construction contract, even though we need to raise more money. She has faith we will raise the rest. I do, too!

Dana Rozycki, Friend of the John G. McCullough Free Library, North Bennington
“Best Friend” Award
Nominated by Anonymous
In addition to cheerfully helping with day-to-day chores at the McCullough Library, like taking the recycling to the curb and helping shovel after snowstorms, Dana has single-handedly raised more than $15,000 in online rare and antiquarian book sales for the library over the past five years. When the pandemic cancelled the annual Book & Bake Sale event, Dana worked closely with his wife, who is McCullough Library’s director, to successfully host a virtual auction fundraiser, which raised over $5,000 for community programs, craft supplies, and other items outside of the library’s operating budget.

Nick and Lani Disorda, Proprietors, Pangaea Restaurant, North Bennington
“Best Community Partner” Award
Nominated by Jennie Rozycki, Director, John G. McCullough Free Library, North Bennington
Always strong McCullough Library supporters, Nick and Lani have been fabulous to work with through this strange year. When our annual fundraiser gala was cancelled two years in a row, they initiated gift card fundraisers instead. When we needed bags for book pickup, containers for craft kit supplies, or disinfectant wipes, they sold them to the library at cost. When the library hosted a Book-It! style family reading challenge this spring, they made the take-home pizza kit prizes at a very reasonable price. We couldn’t have done all we did this past year without their help and support.

Janette Shaffer, Assistant State Librarian for Library Advancement
“Weekly Resources Wizard” Award
Nominated by Nancy Tusinki, Director, Hartland Public Library
During this past year, when all of us were navigating mountains of information, Janette gathered resources every week for libraries. These were categorized, included links, and made my job easier. I looked forward to Janette’s weekly email, where I found timely webinars, ideas for programming, updates on the Vermont Department of Libraries, the latest recommendations from the governor’s office, and always a few tips for self-care. Thank you, Janette.

The Libraries of Vermont
“The Statewide Library” Award
Nominated by Jason Broughton, State Librarian
Every single library, be it public, school, or academic, worked to ensure their communities were safe and resilient. Additionally, thoughtful and purposeful programming with resources ensured mental health and wellness could be accommodated to the best level possible.

The Vermont Library Association congratulates all award winners, and thanks all of you who nominated them. #VLAC21