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Inaugural Georgia Public Library Award winners recognized in their communities and at State Capitol

GPLS News, January 2016

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Inaugural Georgia Public Library Award winners recognized in their communities and at State Capitol
First Lady Sandra Deal with the awardees Claire Leavy, Steve W. Schaefer, Kathryn Ash, and State Librarian Julie Walker.

Georgia Public Library Service (GPLS) has announced the winners of the inaugural Georgia Public Library Awards, honoring the outstanding service and achievements of Georgia's public libraries, librarians and library champions. "We're so pleased to be able to recognize the work of those who help make our libraries exceptional," said State Librarian Julie Walker.

2015 Georgia Public Library Awardees

Georgia's 2015 Public Library of the Year is the Lee County Library. Presented to the library whose staff best exemplifies the qualities needed to positively impact the lives of residents in the communities it serves, the award was presented by Walker to the library at the Lee County Board of Commissioners meeting in Leesburg on Jan. 12.

"We couldn't be more happy than for our system to be named Library of the Year," said Director Claire Leavy. "This is an amazing honor for our employees, for our library board and for our community. It proves that the support we receive from our local governments and elected officials, school system and Economic Development Authority is paying off, positioning Lee County addresses to be among the most sought after in the state."

Georgia's 2015 Public Librarian of the Year is Steve W. Schaefer, who retired this year from his position as director of the Madison-based Uncle Remus Regional Library System. The award recognizes a full-time and professionally licensed public librarian whose innovative and creative talents are instrumental in the delivery of outstanding library service to his or her library and the communities it serves. Schaefer received the award at a Jan. 20 ceremony at the Morgan County Library.

"I am very honored and touched by this award, especially since I am the first to receive it," said Schaefer. "I am certain that there are many who deserved the award more than I, but I love it all the same. Advocating for public libraries is no job for cowards or the demure. I have made friends and enemies during my career, but I am equally grateful to both since they made me all the more dedicated to a relentless crusade to provide quality public library service to each and every resident of Georgia."

Georgia's 2015 Public Library Champion of the Year is Kathryn Ash, current president of the Friends of Georgia Libraries and a trustee of the Jefferson-based Piedmont Regional Library System (PRLS). Presented to an outstanding advocate who was not employed in any capacity by a public library but whose support significantly raised the profile of libraries and improved services during the year, the award was given to Ash at a Jan. 15 ceremony at PRLS's Winder branch library.

"To be chosen to receive this award is an immense honor and hugely humbling, considering that Georgia's public libraries are championed by so many dedicated library supporters," Ash said.

Nominations were submitted from public library directors, members of recognized Friends groups and GPLS staff members. Collectively, GPLS received more than 30 nominations from every corner of the state for the three awards.

"Each of our winners received multiple nominations, but the selection process was exceptionally tough, because all the nominees were deserving of recognition," said Wendy Cornelisen, assistant state librarian for library innovation and collaboration, who served as chair of the selection committee.

"While Georgia libraries and librarians often win local and national recognition, we wanted to establish this awards program as a way of enabling the state to shine its own light on the achievements of our public librarians, libraries and champions," Cornelisen explained. "And by calling attention to their innovative and creative work, we hope to inspire others through their examples."

On January 27, 2016, awardees convened at the State Capitol alaong with a group of library systems directors. First Lady Sandra Deal, who donated a copy of "Memories of the Mansion: The Story of Georgia's Governor's Mansion" to every public library in Georgia, the joined Walker and legislators to present Governor's commendations to GPLS's Library, Librarian and Champion of the Year award winners.

Sandra Deal announcment and awards presentations