MLA Award recepients following the Awards Gala held during the MLA Conference on September 29, 2022, which was held at the Discovery Center, an interactive science center, located in Springfield, Missouri.
Front row L-R: Phil Amato, Tiffany Davis, Madeline Matson, Tori Story, Konrad Stump, Niki Cox, Vivian Gibson, Whitney Burton
Press release – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 14, 2022
Grace Jackson-Brown, Chair, Awards Committee
Professor of Library Science, Missouri State University
Missouri Library of the Year, 15 other awards presented to outstanding libraries
SPRINGFIELD, MO – The Missouri Library Association (MLA)’s top award, for 2022 Missouri Library of the Year, was presented to St. Louis County Library (SLCL) on September 29 at the MLA conference. This award is given for distinguished achievement in library service and accompanies fifteen other awards and scholarships presented last night to libraries, library employees, community organizations, and authors. SLCL, the largest public library in metro St. Louis, earned the top spot because of its services to the community during the COVID-19 pandemic. Staff worked together to bring about service projects including COVID vaccines, COVID testing, and a partnership with the Office of the County Executive to help bridge the digital divide.
In Jefferson City, another team of local agencies won the Community Partnership Award. Missouri River Regional Library (MRRL) and Lincoln University worked together on a monthly lecture series. These events have taken place over three years, initially offered virtually during the early pandemic days. The lectures provide engagement between the Jefferson City community and the university students, faculty, and staff, and have included a wide array of topics including race in America, medical marijuana, what makes poetry good, and naval warfare in the 1910s.
The Excellence in Genealogy and Local History Award went to the Springfield-Greene County Library District’s Local History & Genealogy Department for its Springfield Newspaper Project. The library worked in partnership with the State Historical Society of Missouri and the local newspaper, the Springfield News-Leader, to digitize more than two million pages of Springfield’s newspapers. This project will have a lasting impact for future genealogy and local history researchers in the Ozark region. The work the department has completed is a success story that illustrates how a partnership between media and preservation institutions can benefit a community.
Rounding out the awards given to public and academic libraries was the Public Relations Achievement Award, won by Cape Girardeau Public Library. Marketing Coordinator Whitney Burton did some amazing campaigning for the library to celebrate their 100th anniversary, including a centennial-themed logo and specialty library cards. They gave away T-shirts, pens, notepads, and naturally-magnetic bookmarks to celebrate.
Three awards were presented for works of literature with Missouri connections:
The Missouri Author Award was established to encourage and recognize Missouri authors and promote interest in local authors’ books, whether the books are about Missouri or another subject. Awards are based on literary merit. An honored author must be a Missourian by birth or have lived in Missouri for at least five years. This year’s Fiction Award went to Steve Wiegenstein, a native of the Ozarks who writes about his home region in novels and short stories. In his historical novel series, he uses the fictional village of Daybreak as a microcosm of rural life in America. His short story collection Scattered Lights was a shortlisted finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award in Fiction in 2021.
The Missouri Nonfiction award was won by Vivian Gibson. Her bestselling memoir of growing up in the 1950s in a segregated St. Louis neighborhood was hailed by critics as “a spare, elegant jewel of a work” and “a love letter to Gibson’s childhood.” Gibson grew up in Mill Creek Valley, a working-class neighborhood in St. Louis that was razed in 1959 to build a highway, an act of racism disguised under urban renewal as “progress.” A moving memoir of family life at a time quite different from the present, The Last Children of Mill Creek chronicles the everyday experiences of Gibson’s large family―a collection of decidedly universal stories that chronicle the extraordinary lives of ordinary people.
The final literary award is the Missouri Building Block Picture Book Award, presented annually to the author and illustrator of the picture book voted most popular by preschool children in Missouri’s public libraries. The award’s purpose is to encourage reading aloud to children from birth through kindergarten age. This year’s award went to Bad Dog by Mike Boldt, the hilarious story of a little girl who gets a pet cat but insists it is a dog. Boldt is a well-known name in children’s literature, having authored such well-loved books as A Tiger Tail, I Do Not Want to Be A Frog, Thunder Trucks, and 2022 Building Block nominee Find Fergus.
Six awards and two scholarships were presented to Missouri library employees, trustees, and retirees:
● The Ronald G. Bohley Award is offered annually to library staff who further the cause of interlibrary cooperation in Missouri. This year’s award honors a trio who worked together as a team to plan and implement a catalog shared between St. Louis Public Library (SLPL) and SLCL: Eric Button, Deputy Director at SLCL; and Tiffany Davis, Director of Customer Experience, and Liz McArthur, Director of Neighborhood Services, both at SLPL. These three led a variety of departments, including acquisitions, cataloging, circulation, receiving & delivery, and customer services, through a successful migration that was initially planned in July 2021 and completed in March 2022. They finished by leading customized training for over six hundred employees, and the result was a significant increase in collection access to 1.3 million customers between the two systems.
● Konrad Stump, Local History and Genealogy Associate at Springfield-Greene County Library District (SGCLD) won the Outstanding Library Employee Award. Stump has worked for SGCLD for nine years. He has dedicated this time to developing adult programming and local history interests. He currently co-chairs the district’s One Read committee and developed the “Oh, the Horror!” programming series, which he also chairs. In addition, Stump partnered with the Springfield Art Museum to develop a virtual tour of the Museum’s Sketches from Springfield exhibit during the COVID-19 pandemic. Throughout his work in the libraries, Stump has demonstrated his dedication to public service, innovation, and community development.
● Tori Story of Maplewood Public Library (MPL) won the Outstanding New Librarian Award. Story is passionate about promoting inclusion and diversity in the library. After completing their own training, Story led MPL staff through LGBTQ+ Safe Zone training; they now also offer it to community members. They advocated for MPL’s gender-neutral restrooms as well as for period products to be made available at no charge to patrons. Additionally, Story’s insight was essential to the activities organized for the Municipal Library Consortium’s participation in their first Pride Festival. Their dedication to serving diverse communities has helped create a safe and welcoming environment for MPL patrons.
● Lisa Sanning, this year’s winner of the Outstanding Professional Librarian Award, began her career as the Reference Librarian for the Wolfner Talking Book and Braille Library. She has worked at MRRL for two years and has established two important services to the Jefferson City community. The first is one-on-one assistance offered for filling out online forms – job applications, IRS inquiries, and more – for patrons with limited technology experience. Secondly, Sanning launched a program called Caring Connections in spring of 2022. Social-services professionals are now available at the library during set times to consult with patrons who have basic social needs such as food, shelter, and health care.
● Steve Potter is the winner of the 2022 Meritorious Award, given for outstanding service. Potter spent over thirty years at Mid-Continent Public Library, beginning as a shelver and working his way up to Library Director and CEO. To pick just two of his many and varied contributions, Potter led MCPL to an IMLS National Medal, and he launched the country’s largest public genealogy library. He is also a published author, a frequent and expert speaker on public libraries, and a leader in regional library initiatives, tax incentive work, and public policy.
● The Virginia G. Young Service Award goes to a trustee for exemplary service to Missouri libraries. The 2022 winner is Phil Amato, who has served as a Jefferson County Library trustee since the system’s inception in 1989; in fact, his contribution began even earlier, when he served as chairperson of the committee to establish a county library district. In addition to his work on the board, Amato has also donated equipment, fixtures, and funds to the library, including proceeds from his newest book, Arnold, Missouri: Fifty Years in the Making. Amato epitomizes what it means to be a public servant, and his work helping the library grow into a thriving system will serve as a legacy.
● Christina Matekel, Children’s Librarian at Joplin Public Library, is the winner of the Patt Behler Call-to-Conference Award in 2022. The award supports the professional development of an individual employed in cataloging by encouraging participation in, and covering the cost of, the MLA Annual Conference. Attending this conference will enable Matekel to connect with other youth services librarians, discover new Summer Reading performers, and explore programming ideas for Joplin.
● Morgan Perry, Business Outreach Specialist at Mid-Continent Public Library, won the Ronald G. Bohley Scholarship. The Bohley is awarded annually to a student pursuing a master’s degree in library or information science who has demonstrated high scholastic achievement, a commitment to professionalism and library cooperation, a desire to provide quality service to library customers, and promise toward making a contribution to Missouri libraries. During the pandemic, Perry worked to transition services for her community to an online format, which led to her helping librarians across the country do the same. She brings an energy and drive to her work that is an excellent representation of Bohley’s achievements and passions.
MLA is a non-profit organization that serves as a regional membership organization for individuals working in the field of librarianship. The goal of MLA is to support the work of libraries and further advancements in the profession. The organization’s mission is to promote library service, the profession of librarianship, and cooperation among all types of libraries and organizations concerned with library service in the state. Learn more at molib.org.
Grace Jackson-Brown, Chair, Awards Committee
Professor of Library Science, Missouri State University