Posted December 12, 2019
Written by Madeline O'Shea, Kutztown Community Library Writing Intern
An Evening Spent Celebrating Libraries and Honoring Innovation, Leadership, and Service
On January 29, 2020, Berks County Public Libraries (BCPL) held its eighteenth annual award ceremony to celebrate the innovation, leadership, and service to libraries. The BCPL Board of Directors selected recipients based on their outstanding merits and contributions to Berks County libraries. Among nominees from libraries and local businesses, twelve were awarded.
The evening began with Barbara Stolz of the Kutztown Community Library (KCL) receiving the Linda Baer Friend of the Year Award. This award recognizes the significant and substantial commitment of time, energy, and creativity from a single member of a local library. Along with the award, there is a $100 cash prize sponsored by the Friends of BCPL. Stolz volunteered for over 20 years and served as the Treasurer of the Friends of the Library. She took pride in planning for KCL events, donating money to provide art books for young patrons, and shelving books. Though she stepped down as a volunteer in October 2019, her dedication and continued involvement is recognized by many in the community.
Next, Maureen Dolan of the Reading Public Library (RPL) received Trustee of the Year. This award is presented to a public library trustee in recognition of outstanding leadership of a System Library. A Reading Library Board member since 2015, Dolan has enthusiastically offered her construction expertise. In 2016, she assisted in obtaining a Lowe’s Heroes grant that provided $140,000 to replace carpeting, window coverings, and paint interiors of the Reading Public Library’s Northeast and Southeast branches. Dolan continues to manage renovations to the roof and meeting rooms of the main library.
The Jewish Federation of Reading/Berks received Outstanding Community Organization, an award presented to a local nonprofit or organization in recognition of its support to the community. The Federation developed a year-long author series, Literatour Berks, which partnered with Exeter and Sinking Spring Libraries through the Jewish Book Council. A success, they expanded the series’ audience to encourage all to enjoy literature and build connections to non-Jews.
The BCPL Board of Trustees recognized the Berkshire Mall as the Outstanding Local Business for their contributions to the annual “Book Bonanza” fundraiser. The award is presented to a local business or local office of a regional, state, or national corporation in recognition of its support of public library services. In July 2018 and July 2019, the mall provided retail space for the gently-used book sale, helping the Friends of BCPL and the American Association of University Women raise $100,000 for public library support and scholarship awards. The Berkshire Mall continues to generously partner with local libraries and help give back to its community.
State Representative Mark Rozzi, nominated by the Muhlenberg Community Library (MCL), received Outstanding Elected Official. This award recognizes an elected official at any level of government for outstanding support of library services. Representative Rozzi assisted the library in obtaining a Keystone Communities grant for $50,000, which was used to renovate damaged front doors and provide storage in a wall-to-wall closet and new carpeting and paint. MCL enthusiastically uses the improvements to plan programming events and fundraisers.
Mallory Hoffman, director of the Exeter Community Library (ECL), received Outstanding Library Director. This award is presented to a member library director who fosters cooperation and collaboration among member libraries, shares time and talent with other libraries of county-wide initiatives, and has an effective and resourceful impact on the community. Celebrating her tenth year at ECL, Hoffman has built connections with the Jewish Federation of Reading/Berks’ Literatour Berks author series, empowered top-notch services between the Friends of the Library and the Board of Trustees, and regularly volunteered on BCPL System committees.
Patti Hutchinson of the Mifflin Community Library received Outstanding Library Staff Member. This award is presented to a staff member at a member library who demonstrates exemplary library service and has an effective and resourceful impact on the community. A staff member since 2003, Hutchinson created Thursday Family Story Time. The evening reading event was dedicated to working parents and their children. In addition, Hutchinson assisted patrons and processed donated items to the library. Though she is stepping down after 16 years of service, she remains a valued member for her community.
The Summer Reading Carnival of the Bethel-Tulpehocken Public Library (BTPL) received Outstanding Fundraising Effort. This award is presented in recognition of a onetime or ongoing fundraising project that is especially creative or unique. In 2014, Betsy Kreider, the children’s Librarian of BTPL, came up with the idea of a carnival to reward children’s reading. Youth were able to exchange reading tickets for cotton candy, games, and prizes. Raising over $5,000 in 2019, BTPL created community engagement that both children and adults love.
SummerSTEAM@RPL received Outstanding Program for the Reading Public Library. This award is presented in recognition of a member library for the presentation of an adult, young adult, or children’s program of exceptional interest or creativity. From June 17th to August 9th, the program took STEM outside of the library. Making 66 visits total, RPL assembled at Reading Recreation Commission summer camps, Reading School District summer schools, United Way Books for Bikes, the Olivet Boys and Girls Club, Easter Seals Camp Lily, the YMCA, and ROCC Migrant Education. The program, which had an attendance of 1,055, explored electricity, biology, coding, and many more STEM subjects.
KCL received the Chet Hagan Memorial Public Relations (CHMPR) Award. This award is presented to a library that demonstrates excellent sustained public relation activities throughout the year. The System Board and the Friends of BCPL together sponsored a $500 prize along with the award. KCL couldn’t have won without its impressive annual scrapbook, assembled by staff member Mackenzie Keller. Over the course of 2019, the scrapbook showcases how the library reached its goals, including partnering with Kutztown University’s Professional Writing department, seeking grants for programs like Teen Reading Lounge, and achieving PA Forward Gold Star Library status. The yearlong project also documented Summer Quest, the library’s 70th anniversary open house, newspaper articles written about KCL by interns and outside sources, and other promotional material organized by month.
There were two Certificates of Merit this year awarded to Lisa Rand and Jennifer Smilko. The System Board may award Certificates of Merit for outstanding service or activity that is not otherwise recognized. Lisa Rand of Boyertown Community Library was recognized for her writing and research. She published articles in library blogs, journals, and magazines. In 2019, she became the local chapter representative for PaLA’s Intellectual Freedom Committee and an Intellectual Freedom Blogger for the American Library Association.
And last, but certainly not least, the second Certificate of Merit and final award of the night went to Jennifer Smilko of BCPL. She was recognized for her volunteer and public relations work. As the treasurer of both Friends of BCPL and Book Bonanza, her continued leadership, reliability, and organization shined, especially during years of dwindling membership and loss of officers.
Libraries can only function with the dedicated staff, continued commitment, and recognized accomplishments that run them. The individuals, programs, and libraries rewarded were all rightfully acknowledged for providing exemplary service and communities where all can come to learn, discover, and connect.
Photos from the 18th Annual Awards Celebration
Photo 1: Amanda Hornberger (Jewish Federation) and Nancy Russo (Exeter Community Library). Photo 2: Rosalin Afan (Reading Public Library). Photo 3: Representative Mark Rozzi. Photo 4: Denise Gierula, Nancy Russo, Charlene Zawaski, Mallory Hoffman, Darlene Mest (Exeter Community Library). Photo 5: Natasha Donaldson, Diane Pawling, Patti Hutchinson, Liz Latch, Andrea Hunter (Mifflin Community Library). Photo 6: Taylor Kutz, Barbara Stolz, Mackenzie Keller, Janet Yost, Cathy Ruhf (Kutztown Community Library). Photo 7: Jennifer Bressler, Maureen Dolan, Rosalin Afan, Bronwen Gamble (Reading Public Library). Photo 8: Betsy Kreider and Kaitlin Lehman (Bethel-Tulpehocken Public Library). Photo 9: Lisa Rand and Susan Lopez (Boyertown Community Library). Photo 10: Liz Eshleman (Friends of Berks County Public Libraries) and Jennifer Smilko (Berks County Public Libraries). Photo 11: Ronald Seaman (Berks County Chief Administrative Officer) and Amy Resh (Berks County Public Libraries). Photo 12: Heather Wicke, Karen Winegardener, Amy Crouse, Amy Portzline (Brandywine Community Library). Photo 13: Eileen Simms, Jacki Clark, Tara Ring, Melissa Adams (Muhlenberg Community Library). Photo 14: Kevin Barnhardt (Berks County Commissioner). Photo 15: Bronwen Gamble (Reading Public Library), Marissa Guidara (Reading Library District), Amy Resh (Berks County Public Libraries), Stephanie Williams (Reading Library District). Photo 16: Mary Edwards, Debbie Noel, Eve Kimball, Ginny Hand (BCPL Board of Directors).