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The 2020 MLA Virtual Conference provided an opportunity for members and attendees to honor the following colleagues for their incredible work this past year.

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Text courtesy of the Minnesota Library Association.

The 2020 MLA Virtual Conference provided an opportunity for members and attendees to honor the following colleagues for their incredible work this past year. This year’s winners are:

William J. Asp Distinguished Career Award - Dianne Pinney, Le Sueur Public Library

Dianne has served for over four decades at the Le Sueur Public Library.  She has been an MLA member, presenting at multiple MLA conferences as well as mentoring several early career librarians and serving on regional as well as statewide youth services committees.  

Stacy Lienemann, Director at Waseca-Le Sueur Regional Library System, nominated Dianne and said it best: "Dianne's true legacy will be her dedication to serving the youth in the Le Sueur community. She is one of the rare individuals who can truly create a magical experience for children. Her compassion, imagination, belief in the power of stories, and commitment to libraries creates the perfect spell of enchantment."

In 2014, WCCO viewers voted Le Sueur Public Library the Best Public Library in Minnesota. When reporters interviewed community members about why the library was so outstanding, everyone mentioned Dianne. People lit up when they talked about the story times they've attended, the books she's personally recommended, and the environment Dianne created in the library.   She helped create an early literacy curriculum, developed playful learning kits, cultivated one of the most successful Friends of the Library groups in the state, led a junior Friends of the Library group, and raised funds to construct a new library building.

Dianne retired from the Le Sueur Public Library in September, 2020.

MLA Above and Beyond Awards - Jodi Carlson Grebinoski, Virginia Public Library

Jodi’s above and beyond moment was this 2020 annual conference.  She worked tirelessly to pivot the MLA 2020 conference from in-person to virtual. With seamless grace she gathered information from other virtual conference experiences to help the conference planning committee manage timelines, expectations, and many, many new challenges. Along with her co-chair, Sara Fillbrandt, she helped create a successful virtual conference for the benefit of all Minnesota, balancing what we expect from MLA conferences, the networking and programs, with the reality of our current times.

Jodi’s words of acceptance: "I am honored to be nominated and receive the MLA  Above and Beyond award. I have been very fortunate to work with many library folks from around Minnesota. I also want to thank Sara Fillbrandt, my MLA conference co- chair for 2 years for her amazing work and for nominating me."

MLA Above and Beyond Awards - Inrid Alvarez, Heather Adamson, and Kim Dahl, Rochester Public Library

With the onset of COVID-19, Rochester Public Library (RPL) utilized its strong relationships within the community to build new infrastructure that filled a critical service gap. During a cold March in Minnesota, after the closure of two organizations that serve people experiencing homelessness, RPL staff were called on by the City’s Emergency Operations Center to stand up a Day Center. 

By using recent training and capitalizing on strong community relationships, in just 48 hours, they secured a location, staff, and a team of partners to open the Day Center. This work also allowed them to prove to some of our regular customers how much they care for their well-being. Ingrid, Heather, and Kim volunteered to fulfill the role of Day Center Operations Managers. During the national crisis and Minnesota’s stay at home order, these concerned, committed, and selfless employees undertook an uncharted and essential initiative to support people experiencing homelessness.  Since opening on March 23rd, the Day Center welcomes a daily average of 90 unique guests into a safe space providing food, Wi-Fi, restrooms, a phone, and toiletries. 

RPL Acceptance Video:

MLA Above and Beyond Awards - Nicole Steffel, Dakota County Library

Nicole is a Senior Information Assistant and member of the Circulation Team at Dakota County Library’s Pleasant Hill branch in Hastings. Even though she has worked at Dakota County for over 20 years, Nicole has proven it is possible for someone to lead from any position in an organization and any stage in their career to influence positive change for the community.   

As a member of a system-wide Accessibility Team working across the organization in the area of accessibility and inclusion for people with disabilities, Nicole’s enthusiasm and advocacy were unmatched by her peers, as she consistently went above and beyond in her participation. Throughout the team’s work, Nicole constantly proved her dedication, always volunteering to be more engaged in her role as a team member taking on new and different responsibilities to inform the improvement of library service, including the creating and implementing the library’s Calming Space. The Calming Space is a new space for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder and other disabilities to support unique needs in making effective visits to the library. 

As part of the current COVID-19 pandemic, Nicole used her accessibility expertise as a lens to examine changes made at Pleasant Hill Library. To respond to these new environmental factors, Nicole worked with colleagues sharing ways to use tools from the Accessibility Kit to facilitate effective communication with the public. For example, she advocated for using a white board or the visual card ring, which contains images and text of common library activities, when communication is made difficult by masks and physical distancing.  Nicole prioritizes customer service and is able to leverage her own expertise and perspectives to come up with innovative ideas to provide safe and welcoming experiences for the public.   

Nicole’s words of acceptance: "I am extremely honored to be recognized by the Minnesota Library Association and by my coworkers at Dakota County.  One of my proudest accomplishments in my twenty years with Dakota County was the work I was able to do alongside my coworkers on the Library's Accessibility Team.  Our team was able to advocate for people of all abilities and make changes in all of our library locations.  As a parent of a child with special abilities, it is wonderful to see the accepting and inclusive nature happening in the county and library system that I live and work in. I would like to share this award with my son who has inspired me to continue to advocate."

President’s Award - Mollie Stanford, Arrowhead Library System

Awarded by Patti Bross, MLA President, Mollie Stanford has been involved with the Minnesota Library Association for many years. From being a participant in MILE, to becoming a MILE mentor, serving on various MLA committees as well as presenting at multiple MLA annual conferences. Mollie is a positive force in the library community and extends her enthusiasm in all of her involvement in the Minnesota Library Association.

Mollie’s words of acceptance: "I feel very privileged to join the list of past winners who have provided leadership for the Minnesota library community and who have also given me guidance and support as a librarian."

For general information, questions about the nomination form, procedures, or award category criteria, please contact Kirsten Clark, MLA Awards Committee Chair.

Written by

Jordan Wagaman
Communications Specialist & Graphic Designer