Virginia Library Association Announces 2020 Award Winners

The Awards & Recognition Committee of the Virginia Library Association (VLA) has selected winners for the 2020 association awards from a very competitive application pool. Librarians and library project teams from academic, public, and special libraries across the commonwealth are honored for their exemplary contributions to their communities and profession in 2019. For more details about each winner and their accomplishments, please view the press releases linked below:


Donna G. Cote Librarian of the Year Award

Craig Graziano was named the 2020 Donna G. Cote Librarian of the YearThe Awards & Recognition Committee of the Virginia Library Association (VLA) is pleased to announce that Craig Graziano of Central Rappahannock Regional Library has been chosen for the 2020 Donna G. Cote Librarian of the Year Award. This award recognizes an exemplary achievement of a working Virginia librarian who demonstrates the value of libraries, enhances the image of librarians and/or libraries, promotes an accessible and positive climate in the library, advances community relations, or initiates a new library service or program. Craig Graziano was chosen in part for his work on CRRL’s new IdeaSpace, a maker space in Fredericksburg’s newly formed Canal Quarter district.

Craig’s connection to area youth, his enthusiasm for library services including maker services, and his place in the millennial generation promises to steer CRRL in an exciting new direction. Craig plays a key role in CRRL’s MakerLab operations. He serves as MakerLab manager overseeing the Lab contacts in each branch and assuring procedures are followed, staff are trained, graphics and session statistics are submitted, and that any issues are reported to the Branch Services Coordinator. He wrote all of the procedures for CRRL’s 3D printer badging program and supervises the MakerLab Specialist as well as all of CRRL’s MakerLab assistants. Craig even learned the Python programming language so he could create a coding script for CRRL’s robot Pepper and now takes the robot to local community events such as STEM 16 and KidsExpo for demonstrations.

As a representative of CRRL, Craig has worked closely with City of Fredericksburg officials to promote the development of a creative maker district called Canal Quarter. The cornerstone of Canal Quarter is IdeaSpace, a standalone maker space operated by CRRL. In addition to reaching out to local businesses for partnerships and support of the Canal Quarter, Craig has been instrumental in planning IdeaSpace including recommending equipment, drafting procedures for in-house use of equipment as well as circulating equipment, hiring and supervising staff, and creating work-flow schedules. And while the opening of IdeaSpace has been delayed due to the global pandemic, Craig and the MakerLab Specialist are making use of the space by 3D printing PPE for area medical personnel and local law enforcement. They set up a bank of 12 3D printers from CRRL’s MakerLabs and printed 1081 face shields, ear guards, face masks, and disposable stethoscopes in a six week period.

Craig works closely with local schools, community non-profits and other typical library partners, and is also an active member of the Fredericksburg arts community. He has formed new, creative partnerships with tattoo shops, comic book artists, and area musicians. Craig is part of a generation that is changing how libraries are viewed. As a teen, CRRL was one of the few places Craig and his band were able to perform. His appreciation for that opportunity drove him to propose and develop a partnership between Fredericksburg All Ages, a youth-led music and arts nonprofit, and CRRL. Craig was instrumental in securing performance space at the Fredericksburg branch for the group often staying late to accommodate their various events.

Craig is dedicated to the library, to his profession, to area kids and teens. He is a Branch Manager, MakerLab and IdeaSpace supervisor, member of CRRL’s social media team, and library blogger. He plans large-scale library events, leads branch-level programs, staffs community outreach events, and helps facilitate our Teen Council bringing passion and enthusiasm to all that he does. Craig is a tireless team player and exemplifies the qualities of the Donna G. Cote Librarian of the Year.


The Friends of the Library Award

Pictured from left to right are Friends of Central Community Library President Tom Gurney, Vice President Rhoda Westler, Treasurer Jim Boucher and Social Media Coordinator Angela Pounders.
Pictured above from left to right are Friends of Central Community Library President Tom Gurney, Vice President Rhoda Westler, Treasurer Jim Boucher and Social Media Coordinator Angela Pounders. Pictured below is Book Sale Coordinator Jeane Bothe.

Jean Bothe is a member of the Friends of Central Community LibraryThe Awards & Recognition Committee of the Virginia Library Association (VLA) is pleased to announce that the Friends of Central Community Library have been chosen for the 2020 Friends of the Library Award. This award is presented to a Friends of the Library group in recognition of distinguished service to libraries in Virginia. This group was selected for their strong commitment to supporting the staff and patrons of the Central Community Library by way of funding library projects, programs, and services. The Friends of Central Community Library have developed a strong revenue stream made through book sales specifically as a FBA (Fulfilled by Amazon) seller on Amazon.com.

Formed in 2016, the Friends of Central Community Library is a thirty member effective and responsive group that provides unwavering support in the form of funds for library programs, services and materials, as well as furniture and equipment to complement Central library’s friendly environs. FCCL has an active social media presence as well as a website meant to increase the group’s visibility and provide the library community with event information and donation guidelines. Regardless of whether they are former librarians and staff or active, longtime patrons, the common denominator of all the Friends members is an unshakeable fondness for their library, its quirky building, and amazing patrons. Recent contributions include purchasing new kitchen cabinetry and supplies for the staff lounge and selling over 300 individual titles on Amazon during the Covid-19 lockdown.


George Mason Award

Simon Watts has won the 2020 George Mason Award.The Awards & Recognition Committee of the Virginia Library Association (VLA) is pleased to announce that Simon Watts of the Central Rappahannock Regional Lbrary has been chosen for the 2020 George Mason Award. This award recognizes individuals, libraries, or other organizations distinguished for advocacy of libraries and/or information access. Simon was selected for his role as MakerLab Specialist for CRRL.

Simon Watts is a creative innovator with a passion for offering our customers high-quality 21st century library services. He brings a drive and initiative to further develop services and classes for teens and younger adults, a market that is often a challenge for libraries to reach. A strong supporter of the maker/arts community in our area, Simon’s drive is due in part to his experiences as a comic writer/creator as well as his belief that libraries are a natural partner to the creative community. Brimming with ideas, he works to expand the opportunities available to those who wish to create, especially teens and young adults through CRRL’s MakerLab program.

While still working as a Customer Services clerk, Simon took the initiative to add drawing tablets to our MakerLabs. Simon is responsible for all aspects of bringing this new technology to our labs - he developed the proposal, selected the equipment and trained staff in its use, wrote procedures for our Badging program so library customers could learn to use the equipment without staff supervision, promoted the new equipment in the community, and worked with other library staff to repurpose the library's old self-check stands into permanent drawing tablet stations. As MakerLab Specialist, Simon has worked to expand the reach of our MakerLabs by developing a new Mobile service. He schedules and staffs the sessions, bringing technology and STEM activities to smaller CRRL branches without permanent labs.

Simon is also leveraging his library maker experience by taking an active role in the community and participating in the development of a maker district (named Canal Quarter) in the city of Fredericksburg. Canal Quarter is envisioned as a neighborhood where artists and artisans can live affordably, practice their trade, and open businesses to sell their creations. Simon believes his generation needs options outside the long-held belief that college after high school is necessary for success and feels very strongly about the importance of vocational programs as well as building opportunities for creatives.

IdeaSpace at 1616 Princess Anne Street, a CRRL media + maker space and anchor project in the developing Canal Quarter, will bring more 21st century technologies to library users. Simon has been involved in the project development since the beginning. He collaborated with library administration to create a slideshow that helped secure over $82,000 in grant funding, created a floor plan of the space, and has been integral in determining which equipment is best suited for the location. As a representative of CRRL at the monthly Canal Quarter planning meetings, Simon has embraced many organizational duties to help further develop this maker district including building an interactive map to show which existing businesses the planning group should target, creating meeting agendas, and helping to lead the meetings.

Simon envisions IdeaSpace as a vibrant, creative fixture that will encourage customers to develop their own skills and abilities by providing classes and training. He has created an inventory of IdeaSpace equipment, written one-page instructions for the 9 pieces of equipment that will circulate from IdeaSpace, and developed Badging procedures for 3 additional pieces. Even though the project has not yet launched, Simon has already fielded partnership requests to bring IdeaSpace maker opportunities to underserved students in our area, an indicator that his presence in the community is seen and heard.


Public Library Innovator Award

The staff of the Roanoke County Public Library won the 2020 Public Library Innovator Award.

The Awards & Recognition Committee of the Virginia Library Association (VLA) is pleased to announce that the staff of Roanoke County Public Library, under the leadership of Director of Library Services Shari Henry, have been chosen for the 2020 Public Innovator Award. This award recognizes public librarians or public library project teams who have made an outstanding contribution to advance the mission of a public library in Virginia through an innovative project, program or service during the nomination period. This group was selected for their commitment to equitable access to high-tech for everyone and with the tagline "We’ll meet you at your wonder" as a guide, the RCPL team has embraced the world of artificial intelligence, robotics, and coding full throttle. Through innovative programming and first-of-its-kind technology offerings, they are building a community of strong digital citizens who will understand all of technology’s promises, and also recognize its potential pitfalls.

RCPL works because of the great and innovative staff. Pre-COVID, approximately 100 staff members equaling about 62 FTE were spread out among six locations. The libraries are the highest circulating in the area, and the programs draw large numbers of people. On top of that, staff has shown a commitment to moving libraries forward into the 21st Century through a wide array of AI, robotics, and coding programming for all ages. Robots Pepper and Misty are important staff members as well, and contribute the hardware and software upon which much of the high-tech programming is developed.


Trustee Library Award

Miriam Smolen has won the 2020 Trustee Library AwardThe Awards & Recognition Committee of the Virginia Library Association (VLA) is pleased to announce that Miriam Smolen, Fairfax County Public Library Trustee, has been chosen for the 2020 Trustee Library Award. This award recognizes distinguished service to libraries or a library in Virginia. The Trustee honored may have served on the local, state, regional, or national level, or at a combination of levels. Miriam was selected for her invaluable contributions to the Fairfax County Library, her colleagues on the board, and the greater community. She has worked diligently building relationships and bridging divides to accomplish her present and future goals of expanding both ongoing funding for the Fairfax County Public Library system and community access to library services by increasing branch hours. During these challenging times for library funding and support, her past work will provide a strong foundation for budget planning when it is time to request funding for the library system in future fiscal years.

Miriam Smolen served as Vice Chair of the Fairfax County Library Board of Trustees in 2017, as Chair from 2018 through 2020, and served as a Trustee on the Board since 2014. Professionally, Miriam is an attorney and is the Acting Deputy General Counsel at the Federal Housing Finance Agency. Previously, Miriam was a litigation partner at the law firm of Gilbert LLP, and an in-house counsel at Fannie Mae, as well as serving as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the District of Columbia prosecuting fraud and other crimes for 15 years. Miriam has lived in the Providence District of Fairfax County for 30 years with her husband Jerry, a psychotherapist, and two sons.


The Up and Comer Award

Joshua Waltman has won the 2020 Up and Comer Award.The Awards & Recognition Committee of the Virginia Library Association (VLA) is pleased to announce that Josh Waltman, of the Jerry Falwell Library at Liberty University, has been chosen for the 2020 Up and Comer Award. This award recognizes an energetic librarian, with less than five years of professional experience, who pushes the boundaries of originality and creativity and expands the role of librarian with forward-thinking efforts that help move libraries into the future. Josh was chosen for this award because of his dedication to mentor and encourage library students and those new to the profession, leveraging the experience of more seasoned librarians as well as information gained through his partnership with the School of Business.

Josh Waltman serves as the Coordinator of the Learning Commons, overseeing 17 staff members and 36 student workers in access and borrowing services, at Liberty University’s Jerry Falwell Library in Lynchburg, Virginia. He holds a B.A. in Philosophy and Religion, Master of Arts in Religion, and Master of Divinity from Liberty University, and worked at Liberty’s library as a student and a staff member before pursuing his MSLS. He also holds a Master of Science in Library Science from the University of Kentucky and is pursuing a PhD in Theological Studies from Columbia International University. His research interests are focused in the areas of library student-employee mentorship and training practices, as well as the intersection of faith and information literacy. Josh has developed a training and professional development program to not only better train employees for their work at the library but also, recognizing that many of his employees are working through school and will enter other careers, for the workplace beyond. He has presented professionally on the use of relationship marketing techniques in libraries as well the creation of podcasts as a means of professional development for library staff.


The VLAPAF Supporter of Professional Associates Award

John Ulmschneider has won the 2020 Professional Associates Forum Supporter of Professional Associates Award.The Awards & Recognition Committee of the Virginia Library Association (VLA) is pleased to announce that John Ulmschneider, retired Dean of Libraries and University Librarian at Virginia Commonwealth University, has been chosen for the 2020 Supporter of Professional Associates Award. The VLAPAF Supporter of the Year Award (formerly known as the VLAPAF Supporter of Paraprofessionals Award) was established in 1996 as a means of recognizing an individual who has provided significant support to their staff and who has been a champion for library support staff in Virginia libraries. John was chosen for this award because throughout tenure with VCU Libraries, he successfully advocated for increased financial support from the university, increased staffing levels, strengthened state and regional partnerships, championed diversity, equity and inclusion, and created a culture of innovation at the VCU Libraries. John was among the first library directors in the commonwealth to champion the new institutional membership model for VLA, which provided every employee of VCU Libraries the opportunity to participate in training, attend conferences and connect with the larger community of library workers throughout Virginia.

John Ulmschneider retired from Virginia Commonwealth University in July 2020 as Emeritus Dean of Libraries and University Librarian. Under his leadership, VCU Libraries became a member of the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) in January 2018, the only U.S. academic institution to join ARL since 2002. VCU Libraries also was recognized with the 2018 ACRL Excellence in Academic Libraries Award in February 2018, joining 10 other ARL libraries with this distinguished honor. VCU’s expansion and revitalization of Cabell Library won the 2016 New Landmark Library Award, along with NC State’s Hunt Library and two other library buildings nationally recognized for the ground-breaking designs. In recognition of his leadership at VCU and in the profession, Mr. Ulmschneider received the 2020 ACRL Academic/Research Librarian of the Year Award in 2020.

While directing the VCU Libraries on its road to distinction, John was a huge supporter of his staff at all levels. He knew that the library could not survive without a dedicated and involved workforce. He said that our library staff “deserve all the support we [library administrators] can muster for your exceptional dedication and work.”

John demonstrated his support for staff involvement in VLA PAF by securing funding for them to attend conferences, participate in committee work and obtain training that provided career development and networking opportunities they would not have had otherwise.

When John was notified about this award, he said, "Throughout my career I have tried to support travel and development for all of my colleagues as expansively as possible, and I have seen the benefits every day for VCU Libraries. I’ve received many different kinds of recognition upon my retirement. This one is deeply moving to me, and I will cherish it. I can’t thank you enough for this award, which I consider the true capstone to my career.”


The Outstanding Professional Associates Award

Angie Sumner has won the 2020 Outstanding Professional Associates Award.The Awards & Recognition Committee of the Virginia Library Association (VLA) is pleased to announce that Angie Sumner of Suffolk Public Library has been chosen for the 2020 Outstanding Professional Associates Award. This award recognizes a library associate who fosters communication among library employees throughout the Commonwealth and advances and strengthens the image of Professional Associates. Angie was selected for her efforts to lead the pivot to online programming during the COVID-19 pandemic, providing an innovative vision for marketing in a public library, and becoming a true connection point to the community of Suffolk and the Library.

Angie Sumner is a creative professional with 10+ years of marketing, sales and events experience, which she put to good use when leading the way on messaging Suffolk Public Library’s work to reimagine the library as a community center and place to grow innovation. In the nearly five years as Suffolk Public Library’s Marketing and Community Relations Coordinator, Angie has facilitated filming of and produced 100+ virtual classes during the COVID-19 situation, led the creative marketing strategy behind winning a top performing library award in Zoobean’s Winter Reading Challenge three years in a row, codesigned and cofounded the city of Suffolk’s combined program guide and developed creative for marketing the New Central Library project. From pushing out graphics, videos, and social media content, to creating a public service announcement shown on iPads at major city of Suffolk events, movie theaters, and promo time on local television channels, her creativity and drive, and passion for libraries as community learning centers, led her nominator to state that “Angie does not just do marketing; she gives the library life outside of our walls and is the true connection point for so many people and SPL.”

Angie has also been active in VLA, serving on the Conference Planning Committee in 2018 and 2019 and managing the 2019 conference filming project to gather stories about attendees’ first library job and what they love about libraries.


In order to celebrate the accomplishments of those who support and transform libraries throughout the Commonwealth, the Virginia Library Association, through the hard work of the Awards and Recognition Committee, offers a number of awards. Visit our VLA Awards page for more information about all of our awards.

Last Updated on Tuesday, September 22, 2020 06:25 AM