Three iSchool Alumni Recognized for Outstanding Public Service with I Love My Librarian Award
On January 23 the American Library Association honored the 2021 winners of its prestigious I Love My Librarian award in a virtual ceremony that was part of the ALA’s entirely virtual Midwinter Meeting. Three of the 10 winners are alumni of the Master of Library and Information Science program at the San José State University School of Information.
More than 1,850 library users submitted nominations this year, and awardees were selected for outstanding public service. Each of the three iSchool alumni—Jayanti Addleman, ’85 MLIS; Jesse Braun, ’12 MLIS; and Adilene Estrada-Huerta, ’17 MLIS—showed a deep commitment to their communities, whether removing barriers to borrowing, setting up an online chess forum, or piloting a new model for bilingual storytimes. Each rose to the extraordinary challenges of the pandemic, ensuring library users continued to get the resources they needed.
“My mantra is, are we having fun?”
Nominators call Jayanti Addleman, director of services at the Hayward Public Library in California, “a ray of sunshine that the department very much needed.” When Addleman joined the HPL in 2019, the city’s new main library was still under construction, and its community was frustrated by project delays and service cuts.
Addleman’s first move was to restore services and programming by commandeering rooms in City Hall and elsewhere, immediately boosting morale on both sides of the checkout desk. “You don’t need a library building to provide services,” Addleman observes. Continuing her strategy of prioritizing service over space, she opened the new building to the public as soon as it was safe and the bathrooms were ready.
This approach stood her in good stead when the COVID-19 pandemic closed the library building again, six months later. Under Addleman’s direction, HPL issued electronic library cards, put Chrome Books and other available devices in the hands of students, coordinated giveaways of back-to-school packs, and publicized the system’s curbside delivery service with a multilingual music video.
Addleman, who previously served as library director for the County of Monterey and currently serves as California Library Association president, says she “was embarrassed” when she heard she’d been nominated for the I Love My Librarian award; she felt frontline staff deserved the award. “The staff does it,” she says of HPL’s activities. “I just encourage them. I say ‘hey, go for it.’”
Reflecting on her time at the iSchool, Addleman notes, “Library school’s not going to give you a blueprint for everything that comes up. Library school will prepare you to make the right decision at the right time. And that’s all you need.”
“I have the best job in the world.”
Jesse Braun calls just being nominated “an extraordinary honor.” He, too, gives credit to his colleagues, describing the Beverly Vista Middle School Library in Beverly Hills, California as “a group effort.” Braun not only serves as teacher librarian for the school, he helped create the position, persuading school administrators that a teacher librarian delivering digital literacy instruction would be a valuable addition to the new middle school they were planning.
It is clear from his nominating materials that administrators, teachers and parents are convinced. They describe Braun as “a radical positive change agent” and list his many accomplishments: building the new middle school’s collection, making the library a campus hub where “every student could feel at home,” acting as “expert IT guru” for the school at large, and even designing and maintaining the school’s website.
When the pandemic hit, Braun doubled down on his service, putting together 900 bags of textbooks and school materials for students, which were delivered through an outdoor, touch-free pick up system that the school superintendent called “a model for safety and efficiency.”
Braun continues to provide materials and programming through the pandemic. He’s organized a twice-weekly curbside pick-up and meets with school clubs on Zoom. He’s even developed a chess forum where students gather virtually to play and socialize.
“Ironically, it’s probably the fact that my MLIS was entirely completed via distance learning that most shaped my recent experience as a teacher librarian,” Braun observes. “It was my first real experience with online education, and it gave me a sense of what was possible.”
“Community means everything to me.”
Adilene Estrada-Huerta, who works as the bilingual outreach youth services librarian for the Sacramento Public Library in California, was “blissfully unaware” she’d been nominated, so getting the I Love My Librarian award was a total surprise. “To me, seeing children and families feel welcomed in the library has always been the highlight of my work, but it is nice to be recognized.”
Nominators praised both Estrada-Huerta’s creativity and technical know-how, highlighting a traveling El Día de los Niños program and the partnership Estrada-Huerta formed with the Mexican Consulate to provide a regular pop-up learning space for families using consulate services. Estrada-Huerta also expanded the reach of bilingual storytimes by creating an innovative service model that pairs the language skills of paraprofessional staff members with the storytelling skills of librarians.
Like her fellow awardees, Estrada-Huerta was forced to move her outreach and programming activities online during the pandemic. She sees a silver lining in the virtual service model, however. “One of the biggest rewards is that we are seeing new families enjoy our virtual offerings. Families that couldn’t go to our storytimes before, now have more on-demand access.”
In her acceptance speech at the virtual award celebration, Estrada-Huerta spoke movingly about not feeling at home in the public library in her childhood. Signage and programming were all in English, she remembered, and “there was an abnormal amount of shushing.”
Two librarians reached out to her when she was a teenager, addressing her in Spanish and showing interest in her needs. That transformative experience bloomed into a determination to make the library a place that reflects its community, where all feel welcome. Now Estrada-Huerta inspires others to consider a library career.
This year’s I Love My Librarian honorees each received a $5,000 cash prize, a $750 donation to their library, and complimentary registration to ALA’s 2021 Virtual Midwinter Meeting & Exhibits. A recording of the virtual award ceremony can be viewed on the ALA’s YouTube channel.