December 12, 2017

New Award Honors Innovative LIS Students

Gwinnett County Public Library in Snellville, GA, and the San José State University School of Information are cosponsoring the Innovative Librarians Award, which will shine a light on library science graduate students who are pushing the envelope to advance library services and going above and beyond to improve libraries.

“Our school is thrilled to be partnering with Gwinnett to support LIS students and recent grads [in realizing] their innovative ideas,” Dr. Sandra Hirsh, professor and director at San José, told Library Journal. “We believe it is important for our field to continue to innovate and bring in new thinking, and this award is a great way to accomplish this goal.”

Three faculty members from San José and three to five librarians from Gwinnett will judge the applications. All the judges have library science degrees and more than half have worked the front lines of public libraries. One such judge is Michael Stephens, associate professor at San José and Library Journal’s Office Hours columnist. “I am honored to serve as a judge for this first go round. It’s a big deal that the panel is made up of LIS professors and librarians. Often, we hear about the disconnect between LIS education and librarianship in practice,” he said. The judges will be reviewing blind so there is no bias towards any school or institution. “We won’t know where the applicants came from,” explained Stephens.

Michael Casey, Gwinnett director of customer experience, told Library Journal that he sees the award website as a platform for sharing. “The site will help build an open collection of innovative ideas that can serve the entire library profession,” he said. “We want the website to be an open place that encourages sharing and conversation.” Thus, the application process will require each entrant to write a detailed description of their idea, why it’s needed, and how it could potentially impact the profession. Those selected as one of the five finalists will have their essays posted.

The new award represents the beginning of continuing recognition for creative thinking in the library field. “We hope to expand this partnership in the future to include other library education programs and possibly other library systems,” Charles Pace, Gwinnett executive director, shared with LJ. “In time and as resources permit, we would like to be able to offer multiple awards.”

A common goal of Gwinnett and San José for their partnership is helping students and recent graduates see how the critical thinking skills they acquired in their coursework can be applied to real-life practice. “I appreciate Gwinnett stepping up and creating a way for new ideas to be recognized. I hope other types of libraries take up this idea,” said Stephens.

Any student who is pursuing a graduate degree in Library Science, or graduates who have completed an MLS or MLIS degree in the last two years, are invited to apply for the award, which comes with a $1,000 prize.

The deadline to apply is January 31, 2018.

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