Meet the winners of the 2014 Carnegie Corporation of New York/New York Times I Love My Librarian Award

There are a total of 165,986 certified librarians in the United States, but only a relative handful can claim membership in an elite group – a group neither defined by birth nor monetary distinction.

What they have in common is the fact that they are loved.

This week, 10 librarians representing the spectrum of library service – public, school, academic and special, received the Carnegie Corporation of New York/New York Times I Love My Librarian Award for outstanding public service to the community and ongoing commitment to changing lives through education.

As part of the award process, library users nominate librarians in public, school, college, community and university libraries. This year more than 1,000 library patrons submitted detailed stories regarding how their librarian had an impact on their communities and lives.

Each received a $5,000 prize at an award ceremony and reception held the evening of Dec. 2 in New York City, hosted by The New York Times.

Here are the 10 winners, all of whom not only demonstrate their superior job skills, but also their ability to connect with the people they serve – in many cases on a deeply personal level.

Michael Beller, head of reference and access services librarian at F.W. Olin Library, Mills College in Oakland, California, serves as an exemplary ambassador for the library, whether he is sporting one of his 50 bowties, dancing to the tune of “Happy” in the library stacks for a student video or introducing service dogs to the library lounge during finals and other stressful periods in students’ lives.

Frances Yates, director of the library at Indiana University East in Richmond, Virginia, whose innovative “Ask Us!” campaign gives students access to online library resources 24/7. This is important because the school serves students who must balance jobs and families with schoolwork. The school also has a growing distance education program. Yates places a high priority on offering exceptional service for all library users, whether on-campus or online.

Cherry Hamrick, library director of the Delta Township District Library in Lansing, Michigan, oversaw the construction of a new library. The new 30,000-square-foot building – the first public green building in Delta Township – earned a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification. Today’s new library is teeming with activity – a true community center. Hamrick directed the organization of 338 youth programs and 258 adult programs that were attended by more than 13,000 patrons.

Jessica Elaine Holmes, librarian at Westridge Elementary School Library Media Center in Frankfort, Kentucky, has had a major impact on student learning and also transformed an outdated school library into a hub for the school activities. Holmes inherited a library that was only minimally used by students and staff. In less than one year, she has transformed the library into a warm and inviting place for everyone in the school. Holmes promotes reading by directing the Battle of the Books competition for fourth- and fifth-grade students and coordinating such reading incentive programs as Pizza Hut Book It! and Lexington Legend’s Hit The Books. She also assists students in Book Fest, a literature-based program for gifted and talented students.

Lynn Hancock Hurt, coordinator of Library Services for Brown Library at Virginia Western Community College, has transformed the Brown Library into a positive force at the community college by modernizing the facility to meet the needs of 21st century learners. Maintaining the vision of the college as a “student-oriented center for lifelong learning,” Hurt is known for her ability to identify ways the library can engage more with student life, and is an active member of the book selection committee for “Roanoke Valley Reads,” a community-wide reading experience that promotes reading on campus.Hurt also works to provide outreach to traditional and distance-learning students who previously have had little library interaction. One creative way was by producing a fun infomercial explaining the library resources and services available to all students.

David Lopez, librarian at the Santa Ana Public Library in California, develops valuable programs and services that meet the needs of the underserved residents in the community, many of whom are English language learners and new Americans. His efforts to help bridge the digital divide for patrons are noteworthy, as Lopez has worked tirelessly to develop computer literacy workshops, assist youth with producing video projects and teach patrons how to navigate the library’s social media channels. Last year, Lopez was selected to help open and operate the new Garfield Community Center, a joint project between the Santa Ana Unified School District and the City of Santa Ana. He established a popular library program, including tutoring services for students.

Christine Payne, librarian at Appoquinimink High School library in Middletown, Delaware, provides an invaluable one-on-one approach to assisting students and their parents. Her roles vary from media specialist to tech support, from club advisor to personal mentor, from editor to inspiration. The library is a safe haven for students and the heart of the school, hosting activities, including literature circles for students and their families, who camp out on the floor with blankets and pillows while sharing their thoughts about books.The high school, which is new, was lacking in in many student activities. One of these was a Gay Straight Alliance. This need was met, with Payne as the program’s advisor. She also serves as a hotline to children who feel she is one of the only adults in the building whom you can trust and brings students and parents together through unique programs.

Kevin M. Ray with Cleveland Public Library, is recognized for his ability to connect with youths through his love for reading, passion for comic books and anime. His unique programs have instilled young people not only with a love of reading, but also writing with his popular Writing Workshop series.With his visits to the Cuyahoga County Juvenile Detention Center, Ray reaches beyond the walls of his library to provide valuable outreach to those who are detained within its walls. Ray brings approximately 250 books on each visit to the detention center.Ray introduces youth to genres, takes the time to ask youth what their interests are and cheerfully challenges them to try out a book that’s in circulation within the community. As a result of Ray’s services, the detention center staff started a reading club for 16- and 17-year-olds. The club was so enthusiastically received they formed a second group. 

Ciro Scardina, library media specialist at P.S. 18 School Library in Staten Island, New York, has transformed school library resources to meet the changing needs of students in the 21st century. Through grants, Scardina led a library redesign and renovation to modernize the library with technology that supports student learning, including iPads and an interactive whiteboard. The library also increased its collection with 3,000 new books.  Scardina also addresses the students’ basic need for nourishment. He partnered with various organizations to establish a monthly food pantry for his students and their families. Scardina volunteers at each food distribution to interact with families and get to know his students’ parents.

Sarah A. Sugden, director of the Waterville Public Library in Maine, has been praised for her contributions to the library’s Business & Career Center, which opened in 2011. She was the driving force behind the development of the center while leading a major library renovation. There was a significant gap in services and support for local job seekers, resulting from the closing of the town’s Career Center by the Maine Department of Labor. Sugden saw these circumstances as an opportunity for the library to fulfill a need in the community.Three years later, the library is a hub for job seekers, career changers, entrepreneurs and small businesses. By partnering with local agencies and organizations, the center is able to offer services such as tutoring in resume writing, interviewing classes and assistance to veterans seeking employment opportunities. Local employers also use the library to recruit employees. The enhancements within the library and support from staff continue to make a difference for community members and Central Maine.

Learn more about the 2014 I Love My Librarian recipients.