Skip to main content

2020 ALA Award Winners

ALA Award Winners 2020

Each year, the American Library Association (ALA) recognizes the achievements of more than 200 individuals and institutions with an array of awards. This year’s winners, chosen by juries of their colleagues and peers, embody the best of the profession’s leadership, vision, and service as well as a continued commitment to diversity, equality, education, and outreach. This selection represents only some of those honored in 2020; see the complete list at

Heather OgilvieHeather Ogilvie

Lemony Snicket Prize for Noble Librarians Faced with Adversity

Ogilvie was outreach librarian for Bay County (Fla.) Public Library when Hurricane Michael, a Category 5 storm, hit on October 10, 2018. Ogilvie herself had seven trees fall on her home, and her car was crushed, but she grabbed all the books, puzzles, and games she could salvage and ventured back out into the community.
She worked alongside AmeriCorps, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Red Cross, and United Way to help organize a volunteer reception center as part of Bay County’s Emergency Operations Center, which connects volunteers with opportunities to help in the recovery effort. When the library reopened, she was crucial in maintaining the center, matching volunteers to projects, and linking those in need with recovery services. Read more at

The award annually recognizes a librarian who has faced adversity with integrity and dignity intact. The honoree receives $10,000 and an object from author Daniel Handler’s private collection. DONOR: Daniel Handler (Lemony Snicket)

Jennifer McQuownJennifer McQuown

Scholastic Library Publishing Award

As youth services manager of the Mandel Public Library in West Palm Beach, Florida, McQuown has brought award-winning authors to talk with teens in the Palm Beach Juvenile Detention Center. She also helped start a monthly book club with the Pace Center for Girls, a program designed to keep girls from entering the juvenile justice system.

McQuown has served as chair of the city’s annual BAM (Books, Art, Music) Festival steering committee. She oversaw the expansion of Let’s Read, a program that trains volunteers to bring storytimes into Title I classrooms. She also serves on the Palm Beach County Grade Level Reading Committee, which aims to increase the number of students reading at or above grade level. Read more at

This $1,000 award honors a librarian whose unusual contribution to promoting access to books and encouraging a love of reading for lifelong learning exemplifies outstanding achievement in the profession. DONOR: Scholastic Library Publishing

Nora WiltseNora Wiltse

Elizabeth Futas Catalyst for Change Award

Wiltse, teacher-librarian at John C. Coonley Elementary School, is a leading advocate for librarians and libraries in Chicago Public Schools (CPS). She is a founding member of the Chi School Librarians group, which advocates for having a credentialed school librarian in every public school in the district. Nominators and colleagues praised her efforts to create awareness about the impact of severe cuts to library/school media positions and libraries in CPS.

She is also commended for her many years of mentorship and support for early-career school librarians and library science graduate students. Wiltse is a longtime supporter of the Association of Illinois School Library Educators and former leader of the Monarch Award: Illinois K–3 Readers’ Choice book nominations committee. Read more at

This $1,000 award is given biennially to an individual for making positive changes in the profession of librarianship. DONOR: Elizabeth Futas Memorial Fund

Em Claire KnowlesEm Claire Knowles

Equality Award

Knowles is recognized for her many years of work on issues of equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) in the library community. As the first African-American faculty member of the School of Library and Information Science at Simmons University, she has served as a role model and mentor for students, faculty, and alumni. Her sponsorship of a series of diversity summits involved the larger LIS community and has helped to define the LIS diversity goals at Simmons. She has been instrumental in developing EDI initiatives and played a key role in establishing an antiracism study group that provided training and programs throughout the community.

She has also been a leader of several national and international organizations, including the Black Caucus of the American Library Association, the Massachusetts Black Librarians Network, the California Black Librarians Caucus, and the International Federation of Library Associations and Institution’s Women, Information, and Libraries Special Interest Group. She currently serves as an ALA councilor-at-large and is a past member of the ALA Executive Board. Read more at

This $1,000 award honors an outstanding contribution that promotes equality in the library profession. DONOR: Scarecrow Press, a member of the Rowman and Littlefield Publishing Group

Mieka Moody, manager and library supervisor at Lillian Marrero branch, Free Library of Philadelphia
Mieka Moody, manager and library supervisor at Lillian Marrero branch, Free Library of Philadelphia Photo: Rashid Zakat

Lillian Marrero branch, Free Library of Philadelphia

Penguin Random House Library Award for Innovation

The Lillian Marrero branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia sits in one of the poorest neighborhoods of the city. The award jury was impressed by Manager and Library Supervisor Mieka Moody’s multifaceted approach to community programming.

When thousands of people who were displaced from Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria sought refuge with friends and family in the neighborhood, the library provided weekly drop-in hours with FEMA, local housing nonprofits, the Philadelphia Housing Authority, and local volunteers. Moody also sought out experts in the community who were willing to support wellness programs such as yoga, meditation, reiki, herbal and plant medicine, and gardening in an area without yoga studios or gyms.

The Penguin Random House Foundation has also funded four runner-up awards consisting of $1,000 worth of materials each for Dallas Public Library; Enoch Pratt Library in Baltimore; Passages Academy Libraries in Brooklyn, New York; and Mattawa (Wash.) Public Library. Read more at

This $10,000 award recognizes US libraries and staff who overcome adversity and create lasting innovative community service programs that inspire and connect with new readers. DONOR: Penguin Random House Foundation

Alice KnappAlice Knapp

Sullivan Award for Public Library Administrators Supporting Services to Children

Knapp, president of Ferguson Library in Stamford, Connecticut, has served on many community boards, including World Affairs Forum, Stamford Public Education Foundation, Stamford Partnership, and Stamford Downtown Special Services District, and is a former president of the Connecticut Library Association.
Her nominators write, “Alice has been a major leader and cheerleader for Ferguson’s Youth Department. She is a good listener and empathetic person, always careful to make sure the supervisor of youth services and the staff are involved in the planning of any new projects. She naturally embodies the very finest in a supportive, visionary administrator.” Read more at

This award is given to an individual who has shown exceptional understanding and support of public library service to children while having general management, supervisory, or administrative responsibility that has included public service for children in its scope. DONOR: Peggy Sullivan

Ralph PetersRalph Peters

W. Y. Boyd Literary Award for Excellence in Military Fiction

Darkness at Chancellorsville (Forge Books) details the Civil War’s Battle of Chancellorsville from April 30 to May 6, 1863, when Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s smaller forces defeated Union Gen. Joseph Hooker’s Army of the Potomac, resulting in heavy casualties, including the death of Confederate Lt. Gen. Stonewall Jackson by friendly fire.

Peters is the first four-time winner of the W. Y. Boyd Award. The award jury called this novel “a major contribution to military fiction on the Civil War.” Read more at

This award of $5,000 honors the best fiction set in a period when the United States was at war. DONOR: William Young Boyd II

Mary W. GhikasMary W. Ghikas

Joseph W. Lippincott Award

Ghikas is honored for her many accomplishments during a long, varied, and distinguished career as a librarian, library administrator, and network director and for her 25 years as a senior leader and knowledgeable, steadying presence in ALA—most recently as ALA’s executive director.

The jury noted her service as a mentor, coach, and role model to countless colleagues, particularly to new professionals; her strong support for library and information science education in general, but particularly regarding ALA’s critical role in enabling and promoting continuing professional development; and her deep commitment to increasing and supporting EDI, both in the profession at large and within ALA. Read more at

This $1,500 award is presented annually to a librarian for distinguished service to the profession of librarianship, such service to include outstanding participation in the activities of the professional library association, notable published professional writing, or other significant activity on behalf of the profession and its aims. DONOR: Joseph W. Lippincott III

John M. BuddJohn M. Budd

Beta Phi Mu Award

Budd, professor emeritus and former associate director of the School of Information Science and Learning Technologies (SISLT) at University of Missouri, has been hailed by his colleagues as a leader in education for librarianship for decades. He coordinated the library science program at SISLT, helped shape curriculum at the university, and was instrumental in developing its doctoral program.

His extensive and influential publication record shows his contribution to librarianship and library education. Budd has published widely and authoritatively on issues related to libraries, democracy, and information access. One colleague characterizes Budd’s work as “foundational to any serious library science scholar.” Read more at

This award of $1,000 recognizes the achievement of a library school faculty member or another individual for distinguished service to education in librarianship. DONOR: Beta Phi Mu International Library Science Honor Society

Kelvin Watson, director of Broward County Library
Kelvin Watson, director of Broward County Library

Broward County (Fla.) Library

ALA/Information Today Library of the Future Award

Broward County Library (BCL) in Fort Lauderdale was selected for its innovative use of Amazon’s Echo voice assistant to bridge language barriers as part of its Project Welcome initiative. Using Alexa, Amazon’s virtual assistant, staffers can translate words and phrases from English to other languages to help communicate more easily with patrons. For those languages not supported by Alexa, the library uses dedicated tablets.

Project Welcome helps English-language learners new to the area, informs them of BCL’s resources, and supports them on their journey to English literacy, economic prosperity, and belonging. The first phase allows the library to engage newcomers and their families through a series of videos and resources translated into their native languages. In the second phase, the program facilitates inclusion in the community by introducing families to library services and programs, including BCL’s English and citizenship classes and its Welcome Ambassador mentoring program. Read more at

This $1,200 award honors a library, library consortium, group of librarians, or support organization for innovative planning for, applications of, or development of patron training programs about information technology in a library setting. DONOR: Information Today

Rose T. Dawson, executive director of Alexandria (Va.) Library
Rose T. Dawson,
executive director of Alexandria (Va.) Library

Alexandria (Va.) Library

ALA Excellence in Library Programming Award

The program series “We Are the Alexandria Library Sit-In” was a yearlong celebration of the 80th anniversary of one of the nation’s first sit-ins—a protest of the city’s whites-only public library.

In 1939, after an ongoing effort to convince officials to establish equal access to community resources, 26-year-old attorney Samuel W. Tucker organized five other African-American residents to participate in a sit-in. On August 21, William “Buddy” Evans, Edward Gaddis, Morris Murray, Clarence Strange, and Otto Tucker each asked to register for a library card. After being turned down, they sat silently at separate tables and began to read library books. Police officers arrested the group and charged them with disorderly conduct.

The library involved family members of protest participants in the planning for this anniversary event and engaged the community through a variety of programs, including school visits, a yearlong film festival, anniversary week events, posters, commemorative library cards, pins, and postcards. Read more at

This $5,000 award recognizes a library that demonstrates excellence by providing programs that have community impact and respond to community needs. DONOR: ALA Cultural Communities Fund

Carolyn Blatchley, executive director of Cumberland County (Pa.) Library System
Carolyn Blatchley, executive director of Cumberland County (Pa.) Library System

Cumberland County (Pa.) Library System Foundation

H. W. Wilson Library Staff Development Grant

Cumberland County (Pa.) Library System Foundation administers to one of the fastest-growing areas in the state. In 2019, its libraries served 110,351 active library card holders (more than 45% of the county’s 250,000 residents). The foundation will be using the grant to provide a full day of professional development training to its staff members, as well as staffers from nearby Perry and Dauphin counties, all part of the Capital Area Library District. The day of training will focus on developing the skills, strategies, and techniques to provide a more consistent experience for both staffers and patrons.

Jury members noted they were particularly impressed with the foundation’s generosity in inviting rural Perry County to the training. Read more at

This $3,500 award goes to a library that demonstrates merit in a staff development program that furthers the goals and objectives of the library organization. DONOR: H. W. Wilson Company/EBSCO Publishers

Lesley FarmerLesley Farmer

Ken Haycock Award for Promoting Librarianship

During her decades-long career, Farmer has shown a strong commitment to teaching, research, and promoting school librarianship. Her work addresses the vital role that school librarians play in building strong literacy and information skills in K–12 schools.

As professor of educational technology and media leadership at California State University, Long Beach, Farmer helped create and later revise the teacher–librarian credential program, part of the master’s degree track. She has served on the boards of the American Association for School Librarians (AASL) and the Young Adult Library Service Association and as cochair of the AASL/Association of College and Research Libraries Interdivisional Committee on Information Literacy, as well as many other leadership positions. Read more at

This award of $1,000 honors an individual for contributing significantly to the public recognition and appreciation of librarianship through professional performance, teaching, and/or writing. DONOR: Ken Haycock

Radwa AliRoxbury Public Library, Succasunna, New Jersey

Gale, A Cengage Company, Financial Development Award

Launched in 2018, Roxbury Public Library’s (RPL) “Mini-Golf in the Library” program was its first attempt at a dedicated fundraising event. It raised nearly $5,000 and allowed the library to upgrade its audio and video equipment. The following year, the event brought in enough funds to update the furniture in the library’s children’s room.

Library Director Radwa Ali says the upgrades were part of RPL’s strategic plan to expand its caliber of programming. In preparation for the event, the library reached out to local businesses, eventually securing 26 sponsorships. Seventeen other businesses donated raffle items. “The greater benefit was not the money, however,” Ali says. “We established an annual event that draws local coverage and excitement from our community, and we started to build a relationship with area businesses that had never given to the library.” Read more at

This $2,500 award is presented to a library organization that exhibits meritorious achievement in carrying out a library financial development project to secure new funding resources for a public or academic library. DONOR: Gale, a Cengage Company


Rafael Lopez Sonia Sotomayor Sonia Sotomayor and Rafael López

Schneider Family Book Award, young readers

Just Ask! Be Different, Be Brave, Be You won the award for young readers. Written by US Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and illustrated by Rafael López, the book shows us that our differences are what make us stronger and advises readers that if they are “curious about other kids, just ask.”

A Friend for Henry, written by Jenn Bailey and illustrated by Mika Song, is the young readers honor title.

Lynne KellyLynne Kelly

Schneider Family Book Award, middle readers

A Song for a Whale, written by Lynne Kelly, won the award for best middle-grade book. Iris and her grandmother, both deaf, go on a quest to find Blue 55, a whale that cannot communicate with other whales. Iris writes a song and creates a device to signal to him that he is not alone.

Each Tiny Spark, by Pablo Cartaya, is the middle-grade honor title.

Karol Ruth SilversteinKarol Ruth Silverstein

Schneider Family Book Award, teen readers

The teen award winner is Karol Ruth Silverstein’s Cursed, an #ownvoices novel about a girl with juvenile arthritis. The protagonist’s frustration with those around her grows, leading to anger and self-isolation. With the help of a new friend, an unwavering teacher, and an understanding doctor, she finds her voice.

The Silence Between Us, by Alison Gervais, is the teen honor title.


This award of $5,000 is given to authors or illustrators for a book that embodies an artistic expression of the disability experience for children and adolescent audiences. Schneider Family Award honor titles receive a plaque. Recipients are selected in three categories: young readers (newborn to age 8), middle readers (ages 9–13), and teen readers (ages 14–18). DONOR: Katherine Schneider

Source of Article

Similar posts