April 26, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Four Youth Librarians Among 2016 “I Love My Librarian” Winners

From left: tK, Kathryn Cole, and Sherry Ginsberg

From left: Jamille Rogers, Kathryn Cole, and Sherri Ginsberg

Dedication to and love for patrons was the overarching theme of this year’s I Love My Librarian Awards (ILMLA), presented in New York City on November 30. Neither torrential rain, the commotion of the Rockefeller Center tree lighting, nor a street closing around Trump Tower could dampen the celebratory mood of attendees gathering at the Carnegie Corporation of New York building on Madison Avenue. Among the 10 winners from around the country, each awarded $5,000, were three school librarians and a youth services librarian. Their accomplishments are awe inspiring.

Kathryn Cole, the librarian at Northside Elementary School in Chapel Hill, NC, strives to provide her many underserved, minority students with a high-quality summer reading program. When she discovered that her most needy students were not participating in the public library’s summer program, she spearheaded the creation of an in-school program. She hosted a Family Literacy Night just before the end of school year, during which she shared information on the new summer learning program. She also brought in a public library staffer to issue library cards to families on the spot. The ILMLA ceremony recognizes “school librarians who many times are under the radar,” she noted. Accepting the award, Cole expressed her gratitude and described her library as “the place where students can exhale” from the demands of the classroom. She sees the library as an incubator for social change whose collection should offer mirrors and windows for her students. “Libraries build bridges, not walls,” she said in closing.

With seemingly boundless energy, Sherri Ginsberg, librarian at Hillsides Library in Pasadena, CA, runs a wide variety of programs, often simultaneously. These include, but are not limited to, visiting authors, musical storytimes, presentations by local poets, and a show that pairs students with professional script writers. The library is part of the Hillsides Education Center, a therapeutic residential and day school offering individualized education for students in K–12 who have social-emotional, learning, and/or behavioral challenges. To be so honored after a 35-year career, said Ginsberg, “is beyond amazing.”

Rogers, with her first school principal, Betty Ford, who surprised her by attending the ceremony.

Rogers, with her first school principal, Betty Ford, who surprised her by attending the ceremony.

Jamille Rogers, elementary school librarian and the first winner from Arkansas, was nominated by Bobby Walker, the principal of Marguerite Vann Elementary School in Conway, AR, whom the bubbly Rogers described as the “best principal in the world. He lets me do what is best for the kids.” After seeing that the school’s male students had a low achievement rate, she created the Distinguished Gentlemen’s Club for boys in second, third, or fourth grade. Rogers uses a variety of character and leadership methods holistically integrated to change the overall school environment and the students’ attitudes toward learning. Interestingly, Rogers never thought she would be a librarian. She thanked Dr. Stephanie Huffman, her professor at the University of Central Arkansas, for encouraging her. Rogers plans to use her prize money to match a business donation for the renovation of her library.

Olga Valencia Cardenas, a librarian of the Stanislaus County Library in Modesto, CA, was honored for her work with youth. As her nominator put it, “As the youth services outreach librarian, Olga works tirelessly to bridge barriers for families by engaging with parents where they naturally live, work, and pray,” her nominator described. “This innovative approach to family engagement is highly effective and leads to new partnerships between the library and businesses, service organizations, and schools.” Cardenas noted that she would like to share the honor with her colleagues, whom she described as “people who are passionate in making a better community.”

The six other winners were Danielle Apfelbaum, New York Institute of Technology; Andrea Bernard, Tyler Memorial Library in Charlemont, MA; Elissa Checov, Gwinnett Technical College in Lawrenceville, GA; Tabatha Farney, University of Colorado; Lia Kharis Hillman, San Francisco Public Library; and Roosevelt Weeks, Sr., Houston Public Library.

The Carnegie Corporation of New York, The New York Public Library, and The New York Times were co-sponsors of the award, which is administered by the American Library Association.

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Rocco Staino About Rocco Staino

Rocco Staino @RoccoA is the retired director of the Keefe Library of the North Salem School District in New York. He is now a contributing editor for School Library Journal and also writes for the Huffington Post.



  1. Maybe people w/out a masters degree but run libraries mite be honored as well. they do the same job as Librarians w/out the degree. Happy Day

    • As the “Children’s Librarian” at a small rural public library, I agree. I have a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education, and after years in both public and private school systems, I have found I LOVE being a Children’s Librarian. If I were to win an award like this, the money would go toward getting my MLS!