“Libraries Lead” is the theme for this year’s National Library Week, observed April 8-14. At its annual conference in Bozeman, the Montana Library Association (a statewide organization dedicated to promoting outstanding librarianship and library services) celebrated individuals who create the kind of libraries that do lead their communities and their residents to better lives.

Library of the Year Award was conferred on Montana State University Library Bozeman. Displaying the library’s talent, teamwork, and humor Janelle Zauha, Mary Anne Hansen, Hannah McKelvey, and Pamela Benjamin represented MSU-Bozeman staff at the ceremony. Over the last few years Montana State University Library Bozeman has been an essential player in leading Montana’s academic community to new levels of collaboration and achievement through TRAILS (Treasure State Academic Information & Library Service https://www.trailsmt.org). MSU-Bozeman has also developed key partnerships outside academia through their work on preserving and providing access to the Ivan Doig Archive (http://ivandoig.montana.edu). The final project highlighted by the award has been a long term passion for lifting and connecting librarians through the Tribal College Librarians Professional Development Institute (http://guides.lib.montana.edu/tcli).

The award for Montana Library Association Champion was given to Sara Groves, Marketing and Community Relations Manager at the Helena Community Credit Union. Through cutting edge collaborations, creative problem solving, and extensive fundraising, Sara pioneered early literacy and lifelong learning in Montana.

The award for Outstanding Support Staff of the Year was awarded to Marlys Stark, Administrative Assistant, Montana State Library. Marlys was honored for her hard work, commitment, and excellence in her service to the Montana State Library Commission.

The award for Jane Lopp Trustee of the Year was awarded to Rita Henkel, Board Chair, Missoula Public Library. Rita has worked hard coordinating not only the library and library supporters, but also local government, businesses and voters to plan and realize a new state-of-the-art Missoula Public Library community center through both private and public funds. Rita was also appreciated for her extensive involvement in Montana’s library community through support, statewide collaborations, and continuing education.

The award for Pat Williams Intellectual Freedom Award was given to Mark Wetherington, Library Director; Bitterroot Library Board and Staff for their work promoting equal access to library resources and fair treatment of all elements of their community by library policies and staff. They embodied foundational library principles while being transparent, compassionate, and courageous with those involved and the communities they serve.

The award for Montana Library Association Champion was conferred on Dr. Ann Ewbank, Associate Professor, Montana State University Bozeman. Ann was honored for her work attracting classroom teachers into the K-12 Library Media Specialist preparation program at MSU, as well as spearheading the team that successfully advocated for the inclusion of school libraries into Montana’s Every Student Succeeds Act Plan.

Sheila Cates Librarian of the Year Award was awarded to Gale Bacon, Director Belgrade Community Library. Gale’s leadership has been essential in not only stabilizing and advancing library services in Belgrade but she has also been a key player in guiding and improving all Montana libraries on the state level. Both Belgrade City-Manager Ted Barkley and Mayor Russ Nelson spoke of their respect for, faith in, and excellent working relationship with Gale and the Belgrade Library while coping with the challenges of a booming population and the changing needs of the community. The partnerships and deep community support that Gale has built over her time in Belgrade have now come to fruition with a plan for an addition to the current library that will double its size.

The Montana Library Association extends its deepest gratitude to all those who make Montana’s libraries ever more relevant in leading the communities they serve to a better future. For more information and pictures please visit the Montana Library Association’s website see our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/groups/34421901898/.