VLA 2023 Award Winners

The Awards & Recognition Committee of the Virginia Library Association (VLA) has selected winners for the 2023 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 2022. All Virginia Library Association award winners will be honored at the Awards Celebration on Sunday evening, October 22, 2023, at the Westfields Marriott Washington Dulles, Chantilly, Va., in conjunction with the VLA Annual Conference. For more information about this event, see our conference website. For details about each winner and their accomplishments, please view the press releases linked below:

Advocacy Award

The Awards & Recognition Committee of the Virginia Library Association (VLA) is pleased to announce Easter DiGangi of Newport News Public Library and Melinda McKenzie of the Portsmouth Public Library, Churchland Branch have been chosen for the 2023 Advocacy Award (formerly the George Mason Award). This award recognizes individuals, libraries, or other organizations distinguished for advocacy of libraries and/or information access. Easter and Melinda were chosen for their work with the Book Resume project.

Easter's professional association involvement began in 2008 with ALA and the Wisconsin Library Association. She has served on a number of state and national association committees and forums over the years before settling on a home in Virginia. Most notably Easter was a member of the 2011 ALA Class of Emerging Leaders and then Assistant Treasurer/Treasurer-Elect for ALA New Members Round Table from 2014-2017. In Virginia, she's taken the opportunity to further develop her leadership experience. Easter was part of a multi-type library working group in 2020 led by the Library of Virginia. The aim of this group was compiling best practices in collecting for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. In 2022, Easter and Melinda co-developed the VLA Book Resume Project. This gave library workers a way to prepare for and share resources to defend intellectual freedom. Easter is currently the Library Manager at the Pearl Bailey Branch of the Newport News Public Library. 

Melinda McKenzie has been the manager of the Churchland Branch Library of the Portsmouth Public Library since 2015. She earned a MLIS from the University of Alabama in 2009 and started her career as a librarian with the Suffolk Public Library. Melinda has become increasingly involved in issues of intellectual freedom and is currently a member of the Intellectual Freedom Committee of VLA. 



Donna G. Cote Librarian of the Year

The Awards & Recognition Committee of the Virginia Library Association (VLA) is pleased to announce that Amanda B. Jackson of Chesapeake Public Library System has been chosen for the 2023 Donna G. Cote Librarian of the Year Award. The Donna G. Cote Librarian of the Year Award recognizes exemplary achievement of a working Virginia librarian who has made a significant contribution(s) at any level of librarianship during the current year.

Amanda B. Jackson has been the Director of the Chesapeake Public Library System since 2018. Prior to that she was the Director of the Gadsden Public Library and Gadsden Museum of Art in Gadsden, Alabama. Amanda is also an Adjunct Instructor for the MLIS program at Old Dominion University. She received her MLIS from the University of Alabama. Amanda currently serves on the Intellectual Freedom Committee for VLA and as President of the Virginia Public Library Director’s Association.  

Friends of the Library Award

The Awards & Recognition Committee of the Virginia Library Association (VLA) is pleased to announce that the Friends of the Jefferson Madison Regional Library (JMRL) was chosen for the 2023 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.

The Friends of the Jefferson Madison Regional Library (JMRL) serve the people of Charlottesville, Albemarle, Greene, Louisa, and Nelson by raising funds and otherwise supporting JMRL's mission and values. For over 50 years the Friends of JMRL have held one of the most successful library book sales in Virginia, and in FY24 the Friends have budgeted $158,000 to support library programming at JMRL. 

Librarian of Color Forum Award

The Awards & Recognition Committee of the Virginia Library Association (VLA) is pleased to announce Quettara Drayton of Sussex Central Middle Schoool was chosen for the 2023 Librarian of Color Forum Award. This award recognizes librarians and library staff of color serving in a library in Virginia that exhibit excellence in service to libraries and communities of color as well as conducted outreach or develop programming that encourages engagement or removed barriers to library information and services. 

Quettara is the new Library Media Specialist for Sussex Central Middle School. She has spent most of her career engaging with underserved youth and doing her best to craft positive experiences for them at the library. Quettara believes children and their families need to be met where they are, and that led to her switch from public libraries to school librarianship. Quettara's desire to remove barriers for those interested in the field of librarianship motivated her to join VLA's Scholarship Committee in 2018. Since 2020, she has served as the committee's Vice Chair. Quettara graduated from the University of Maryland in 2017 with her MLIS and a concentration on youth studies. 

Outstanding Professional Associates Award

The Awards & Recognition Committee of the Virginia Library Association (VLA) is pleased to announce Lesley Perkins of the Massanutten Regional Library (MRL) was chosen for the 2023 Outstanding Professional Associates Award. This award recognizes a library associate who advances and strengthens the image of Professional Associates as well as fosters communication among library employees throughout the Commonwealth. 

Lesley Perkins has been the Business Manager at MRL since August 2016. In her role, she is responsible for all human resources and financial operations for the system. Prior to working at MRL, she was a staff accountant for a CPA firm and has worked in the accounting field for more than 18 years. Lesley has two Bachelor of Science degrees, one in Business Administration and one in Agriculture. Lesley enjoys her role at MRL as it has been a great way to marry accounting with her love of libraries.

Public Library Innovator Award

The Awards & Recognition Committee of the Virginia Library Association (VLA) is pleased to announce Gary Goodson and  Atnaf Ameha both of Fairfax County Public Library was chosen for the 2023 Public Library 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 (2022).

Gary Goodson (pictured right) works as an Internet/Intranet Architect at Fairfax County Public Library in Fairfax County, Virginia. In this role, he maintains the library’s public internet and intranet sites, and develops applications in Microsoft Power Platform. He worked in library branches in Fairfax County for eight years before moving to library IT. Gary has worked in libraries for almost 15 years, including public libraries in Texas and Virginia and a medical library. He has a Master of Arts in Literature from Texas State University and a Master of Library Science from the University of North Texas.



Atnaf Ameha is a Program Analyst with more than 20 years of experience in IT.  Mathematics, Computer Science and Statistics are his education background. Atnaf specializes in Power Platform products specifically SharePoint, Power Apps and Power BI.  Atnaf enjoyed bringing sensible and exciting power platform services that happen every day in Fairfax County Public Library (FCPL). Atnaf is inspired daily by his wife and their kids (a boy and a girl). Atnaf lives in Alexandia, Fairfax, and he likes walking with family. 

Trustee Library Award

The Awards & Recognition Committee of the Virginia Library Association (VLA) is pleased to announce Carol Turrentine, Augusta County Library Trustee, was chosen for the 2023 Trustee Library Award. This award recognizes the distinguished service to libraries or a library in Virginia. 

Carol is a professional photographer who was formerly the chair of the board of the Putnam Valley Arts Council in New York. Prior to becoming a Board Trustee, she served as president of the Friends of the Augusta County Library. She has been a trustee of the Augusta County Library Board for seven years. Carol has a passion for environmental sustainability, staff well-being, her Middlebrook community, and of course public libraries!

The Up and Comer Award

The Awards & Recognition Committee of the Virginia Library Association (VLA) is pleased to announce Rebecca Weimert of the Poquoson Public Library was chosen for the 2023 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.

Rebecca is the Youth Services Librarian at the Poquoson Public Library. While serving in multiple roles at the library as a volunteer, page, and cataloger, she earned her MLIS at Clarion University. Rebecca now plans programming for families and proudly sings off-key to toddlers in story time. She is excited to share her love of learning and the library with her community.

Virginia Library of the Year Award

The Awards & Recognition Committee of the Virginia Library Association (VLA) is pleased to announce Williamsburg Regional Library was chosen for the 2023 Virginia Library of the Year Award. This award recognizes a Virginia library (public, academic, or special), library system, or library network for distinguished achievement in service. 

Founded in 1909, the library has a long history in Williamsburg. Before it became a regional system, the Williamsburg Library was first located in the front hall of the historic Saint George Tucker House with 50 volumes; the library grew and relocated many times. It began serving James City County residents in 1926.  The Williamsburg Regional Library (WRL) was formally established in 1977. Today the Williamsburg Regional Library (WRL) is an award-winning regional library system that consists of the Williamsburg Library on Scotland St. in Williamsburg, the James City County Library on Croaker Rd. in James City County, the Stryker Center on N. Boundary St. in Williamsburg, and its Mobile Library Services vehicles. The WRL service area includes the City of Williamsburg, James City County, and York County. Over 57,000 residents of Williamsburg, James City County, and York County are active library users.

Over the last year, WRL built on its successful outreach programs by increasing digital literacy classes, expanding its Saturdays @ Frink programming, adding opportunities for Spanish-speaking English learners, and growing partnerships with other organizations such as Merrimac Juvenile Detention Center and James City County Parks and Recreation.   

The popular Kiwanis Kids Idea Studio, WRL’s revolutionary integrated children's museum and library experience, promotes diversity, equity, and inclusion in the community by offering accessible and family-friendly learning. With 130,000 visitors in one year, this innovative space has become a hub for families of all backgrounds to come together and explore learning in a fun, interactive way.  

Over the past two years, almost 3,000 attendees have participated in Saturdays @ Frink programs, a weekly themed series hosted by WRL’s outreach team at the Abram Frink Jr. Community Center. Cena con Cuentos, a “dinner and stories” early literacy program for Spanish-speaking families, has introduced around 600 children and caregivers to library services.  

“WRL provides outstanding interactive learning experiences for families and children of all ages and backgrounds,” library director Betsy Fowler said. “With strong partnerships and a dedication to fostering inclusive, educational programs, the library continues to build a strong community that is eager to learn and grow together.”

VLA Professional Associates Forum Award

The Awards & Recognition Committee of the Virginia Library Association (VLA) is pleased to announce Vanessa Salo was chosen for the 2023 VLA Professional Associates Forum Award. The VLA Professional Associates Forum Award (formerly known as the VLA Paraprofessionals Forum Award) was established in 1995 through the generosity of Evelyn Kimball, a retired library paraprofessional who recognizes the value of support staff development. Awarded annually, the VLA Professional Associates Forum award provides full conference fees to the recipient.

Vanessa spent five years as a youth services assistant at the Alexandria Library. As a lifelong art history lover, one of her greatest passions is accessible early childhood art education. During her career at the Alexandria Library, Vanessa ran an art history maker program, hosted school visits focused on her library branch’s Civil Rights history, and created several American Girl-themed local history programs. She is an American Girl scholar, as a facilitator of a working group for the National Council on Public History, who has shared her program’s materials with librarians across the country.

Vanessa is one of the newest members of the American Library Association’s ALSC Quicklists Consulting Committee. She is also the chair of the VLA Cardinal Cup Committee, the Executive Board Secretary of the VLA Professional Associates Forum, and serves on the Artwork Committee of the Collaborative Summer Library Program, providing feedback to the year’s selected Caldecott winning artist. As a proud Ukrainian-American, Vanessa co-hosts a virtual interview program called “Ukrainian Voices” that amplifies the stories of Ukrainians living through the Russo-Ukrainian War. She hopes to spend the rest of her career in libraries providing diverse public history and art programs for children of all ages and backgrounds.

The VLAPAF Supporter of Professional Associates Award

The Awards & Recognition Committee of the Virginia Library Association (VLA) is pleased to announce Stephanie Mullins of Massanutten Regional Library (MRL) was chosen for the 2023 VLAPAF (VLA Professional Associates Forum) 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. 

Stephanie is currently the Circulation Desk Manager at MRL, a role she has enjoyed and embraced since 2014. She began working at MRL in 2006 in the Circulation Department and has taken on a variety of responsibilities at the Library over the years. She became MRL’s first Volunteer Coordinator in 2010 after creating a Volunteer Program focused on recruiting volunteers of all ages from the surrounding communities and local universities. She currently still holds that position, and since 2008, she has provided one-on-one training to all new hires system wide on effective customer service and MRL’s ILS procedures. She has diligently worked during her tenure to promote procedural consistency among staff at MRL’s seven branches through her oversight of MRL’s Procedures Manual, her dedication to offering ongoing training to current staff, her willingness to field questions from branch managers, and her weekly distribution of an internal e-newsletter highlighting procedural modifications and reminders, which she wrote for four years. Stephanie received her B.A. and M.A. from James Madison University, and she taught there as an adjunct instructor of Composition and American Literature for almost five years before joining MRL. She and her husband are the proud parents of a daughter who attends Sweet Briar College and a Cavachon named Huxley who keeps her busy in her free time.

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 Wednesday, May 29, 2024 08:06 PM