2021 Awards & Honors


2021 Awards Announcements

The Awards & Honors Committee of the Wisconsin Library Association annually selects winners for the following awards: 
Citation of Merit

Library of the Year Award
The Muriel Fuller Award
Programming Innovation Award
Special Service Award
Trustee of the Year Award
WLA/DEMCO Librarian of the Year Award

The Wisconsin Library Association is pleased to announce the 2021 Library Award & Honor Winners, selected for their outstanding contributions to libraries and librarianship:

WLA/DEMCO Librarian of the Year:  John Thompson, IFLS Library System
Nominated by: Leah Langby, IFLS Library System

Library of the Year:  Leon-Saxeville Pine River Library
Nominated by: Judy Newland, Leon-Saxeville Pine River Library

Programming Innovation Award:  Aram Public Library’s Summer Storyteller Series in Delavan, WI
Nominated by: Linda Zell, Aram Public Library

WLA/DEMCO Librarian of the Year:  John Thompson, IFLS Library System

The Wisconsin Library Association congratulates each winner and will celebrate their accomplishments during a recepetion in their honor at the WLA Annual Conference in Green Bay, November 16th through the 19th. The winners will also be invited to present at a panel presentation during the conference.

The WLA Awards program is supported by the WLA Foundation, through individual charitable contributions, and through the generous support of EBSCO.  WLA engages, inspires and advocates for library workers and supporters to improve and promote library services for the people of Wisconsin.  The awards program is one way the association acknowledges the dedication of its members to provide exemplary library service.

WLA/DEMCO Librarian of the Year

As the Director of the IFLS Library System, John Thompson has spent 14 years providing excellent service to 53 libraries in ten counties, including consultation for building projects, director hiring, long-range planning, and much more. John has created a workplace environment centered around trusting relationships with IFLS libraries and limitless support for member libraries. Staff at member libraries report that John embodies the concept of a “servant leader” and consistently makes decisions with members in mind. More importantly, he can always be relied upon to be responsive to the needs of member libraries and their staff, and advocates for them fiercely through honesty and professionalism. He also cares for the personal wellbeing of library staff, as evidenced by his weekly meetings with IFLS library directors throughout the pandemic and frequently checking in with other colleagues during difficult transitions. John served as the chair of the Public Library System Redesign project (PLSR) and worked with the Department of Public Instruction on pandemic response and service recommendations throughout the pandemic. John has always been an indefatigable resource for IFLS libraries, and has only become more so during the last year and a half. The impact he has had on not only IFLS libraries, but on libraries throughout the state cannot be measured. 

His endless support for member libraries as well as his willingness to work to solve difficult problems alongside libraries and statewide organizations, not to mention his tireless sense of humor, makes him a worthy recipient of the 2021 WLA/DEMCO Librarian of the Year Award. 

Library of the Year

The Leon-Saxeville Pine River Library has been the centerpiece of their community for decades, and has continually improved their services and space to meet their community’s evolving needs. As patrons can attest, the library has worked over the past twenty-five years to expand their space to include a children’s room and a computer area, where locals can access high-speed internet and receive computer help from friendly staff. The adaptation of their space and services was showcased with the COVID-19 pandemic, when the Leon-Saxeville Pine River Library board formed a Fundraising Committee and worked with local leaders to demolish an abandoned building and use the land for a community park. Not only does the park benefit the community as a whole, but the library was able to plan outdoor programming to utilize the space and engage with their community safely. The pandemic meant a monumental shift in the services the library provided, including the creation of curbside service and following health and safety protocols, but patrons report that the library continued to provide integral resources to them for education and entertainment throughout the pandemic, which is evidenced by their increased circulation statistics and successful Summer Library Programs in 2020 and 2021.

The Leon-Saxeville Pine River Library’s commitment to the growth and wellbeing of their community, especially during such uncertain circumstances, demonstrates that they are truly deserving of the 2021 Library of the Year Award.

Programming Innovation Award

The Summer Storyteller series, designed and implemented by the Aram Public Library in Delavan, WI, has received the 2021 Programming Innovation Award. This program was developed during the COVID-19 pandemic as a way to virtually bring reading and literacy to the community as well as reconnect the community to local organizations and businesses in Delavan. The program required robust partnerships with the community and was a unique spin on virtual storytimes. The program strove for inclusivity by incorporating American Sign Language and Spanish into their videos, and used both Facebook and YouTube to connect with a broad audience. While the Summer Storyteller series was designed for the enjoyment of children in the community, the videos are enjoyed by children and adults alike, which is evidenced by an average of over 300 views for each episode.