April 12, 2002

Cornell Library Receives 2002 Excellence Award

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The Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) recently announced that the Cornell University Library will receive one of the 2002 Excellence in Academic Libraries Awards. The award, which is given in three categories each year, is partially funded by Blackwell’s Book Services, a company which services libraries and other institutions. While Cornell is the recipient of the University Award, there are also annual awards in the two other categories for college and community college libraries.

“We are delighted to have been selected. You can’t imagine what a wonderful place Cornell is until you’ve had the pleasure of spending time with our creative and dedicated library staff. They have an unparalleled esprit de corps, working together to bring the highest quality service to Cornell students, faculty and staff,” Sarah E. Thomas, Carl A. Kroch University librarian.

The nominating committee of the ACRL — whose six members hail from various parts of the United States — invited Cornell to submit an application detailing some of the programming for its library system. Cornell’s application focused on the library’s ability to be flexible in order to meet the needs of such a diverse institution, with sections describing topics including Determining the Needs of Our Community, Creating a User-Friendly Environment, Expanding the Capabilities of Our Staff, Integrating the Library into the Classroom, Communicating with the Faculty, Reaching Out to Our Colleagues, Transferring the Technology of Preservation, Leading and Collaborating on Digital Projects, and Sharing Our Knowledge and Experience. One of the initiatives the application focused on was the library’s opposition to creating a fee-for-service system for library Internet use, which would have limited user access and increased library costs.

To a large extent, the award was a response to a number of digitization projects the library is currently undertaking. In addition to digitizing materials from several special collections including the Witchcraft Collection and the Susan H. Douglas Collection of Political Americana, the University, with a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, is digitizing all the remaining records in its card catalog. The grant allowed the library “to hire additional staff and get it all done,” according to Elizabeth Fontana, communications manager for the Cornell Library.

She explained that these records include “a number of titles in [the] Humanities and Social Science Collections which were acquired back before [they] had an online catalog.” The other digitizations were also the result of several grants which the library has recently received.

However, the ACRL’s main purpose in the Excellence in Academic Libraries Awards is to honor the librarians themselves.

“This award is to recognize the accomplishments of librarians and other library staff as they come together as members of a team to support the mission of their institution,” says the organization’s website.

At a ceremony to be held on April 24, representatives from the ACRL will present the award to President Hunter R. Rawlings III. However, this ceremony will be more of a celebration as the award is intended to recognize librarians’ work at university libraries, according to Fontana. “They actually expect us to use the $3,000 on the staff celebration,” said Fontana regarding the money Cornell Library is being awarded.

Fontana added that she thinks the “remarkably cohesive staff” is well deserving of the award. She also remarked that the librarians regularly receive many letters of appreciation from students who have been helped when using the library. This award is national recognition for something that members of the Cornell community witness all the time.

“Receiving an Excellence in Academic Libraries Award is a national tribute to a library for the outstanding services, programs and leadership it provides to its staff, faculty and community,” said ACRL Executive Director Mary Ellen Davis.

Archived article by Aliza Wasserman