Award-Winning Librarians Help During Pandemic

15 January 2021

Anyone who loves to read loves a library. The sight of thousands of books organized on shelves; the smell of old books mixed with new ones; the sound of a librarian silencing a noisy visitor – are all part of a book-lover's dream.

But libraries are much more than that.

In this digital age, libraries and the experts who run them help bridge the digital divide between those with technology and those without. Librarians help people find important information in a huge sea of material. They support literacy and a love of reading.

Libraries offer more than just books. Northeastern University graduate student Shabbir Hussain, of Indore, India, left, views a computer screen at the entrance to the Snell Library on the Northeastern University campus in Boston on Tuesday, May 24, 2016. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
Libraries offer more than just books. Northeastern University graduate student Shabbir Hussain, of Indore, India, left, views a computer screen at the entrance to the Snell Library on the Northeastern University campus in Boston on Tuesday, May 24, 2016. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

This is true in normal times. But libraries and librarians are even more valuable since the 2020 coronavirus, which forced most students into online education.

The American Library Association (ALA) started the I Love My Librarian award in 2008. Each year 10 are chosen for the award. ALA President Julius C. Jefferson Jr. noted the extreme difficulty caused by the pandemic in his praise for the 2021 award winners.

"Librarians have risen to the occasion," he said, "providing much-needed resources to their communities from a safe distance."

Library users nominate their favorite librarian for the award. They are chosen for their expert knowledge about books, their support for learning and reading, and for their contributions to the community.

Each winning librarian receives $5000, and a $750 donation to their library from the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

The Associated Press reported on the winners for 2021. And now the envelope please!

Jayanti Addleman is the library director at the Haywood Public Library in Haywood, California. The website I Love explained her work during the COVID-19 crisis. She made sure everyone, but especially people in need, could easily get a library card online and devices to help bridge the digital divide.

At Washburn University, in Topeka, Kansas, librarian Sean Bird made sure that all students taking classes online because of the coronavirus received laptops. One student wrote about Bird: "That dude changed my life. He is the reason I graduated."

Jessica Bell of Boston's MGH Institute of Health Professions won for making the library "a world-class resource for teaching and learning." She also led online events to keep students calm and connected.

Naomi Bishop at the University of Arizona College of Medicine, in Phoenix, won for being a voice and leader for social justice. Her nominators said the local medical community turned to Bishop "for up-to-date research about public health and safety best practices."

Jesse Braun of Beverly Vista Middle School Library, in Beverly Hills, California, won for leadership in providing online and physical resources during the pandemic. His nomination states that he grew the library "into a beloved, student-centered environment, where every child, every teacher, and every family could feel at home."

Adilene Estrada-Huerta of the Sacramento Public Library in California won for "outstanding outreach services to Spanish-speaking families" and Russian as well. This tech-savvy librarian also adapted the library programming to a virtual format.

Librarian Jianye He at the University of California, Berkeley, won for building community and helping Chinese teachers. Her nominees describe her as "a home away from home."

Jane E. Martellino at the International School at Dundee, in Greenwich, Connecticut won for creating an exciting culture of literacy. She has helped countless children discover the joy of reading through her programs. During the pandemic, she created a tablet-based online product for students to access digital books, stories, and learning resources.

Jennifer L. Newcome at Northeastern High School in Manchester, Pennsylvania is a research partner and source of support for both teachers and students. One nomination letter said that Newcome noticed a student who seemed hungry sitting alone in the library at lunch. So, she began bringing food for him every day and checking in with his teacher. The boy, who had been struggling in his studies, became an honor roll student.

Elizabeth Moreau Nicolai from the Anchorage Public Library in Alaska won for "promoting literacy" and other services for Alaska's young people. Her nomination said: "Her passion for equitable programming and collections have helped shape the library's goals of inclusion and service to the entire community."

I'm Bryan Lynn.

And I'm Anna Matteo.

Hillel Italie reported this story for the Associated Press. Anna Matteo adapted this story and added information from website for VOA Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor.


Words in This Story

literacy – n. the ability to read and write

occasion – n. somewhat formal : a particular time when something happens : somewhat formal : a chance or opportunity : a situation that allows something to happen

contribution – n. something that is given to help a person, a cause, etc.

dude – n. chiefly US slang : a man

best practices – n. a procedure that has been shown by research and experience to produce optimal results and that is established or proposed as a standard suitable for widespread adoption

virtual – adj. being on or simulated on a computer or computer network

honor roll – n. especially : a list of students who have received good grades in school

passion – n. a strong feeling of enthusiasm or excitement for something or about doing something

inclusion – n. an act of taking in as part of a whole : the state of being taken in as part of a whole