Each year, the Utah Library Association presents awards at the annual ULA Conference to information professionals nominated by their colleagues who deserve recognition. Nominations may be submitted by any member of the Utah Library Association.
The 2021 Winners
Librarian of the Year – Angela Edwards
Angela Edwards has been the Director of the Carnegie-era Beaver City Library since 2005. She volunteered for a year prior by providing a weekly summer Storytime and coordinating volunteers. As director, Angela has transformed the once stagnant old library into a hive of activity. She frequently hosts storytellers and performers at their community space. She initiated an active teen advisory board of 20 teens. She used funds from a Library Services and Technology Act grant to acquire Playaway Launchpad tablets with preloaded educational games and eBooks, which she shares among preschools, child care centers, and Head Starts in the area. She acquired pickleball equipment for circulation and the library hosts classes at the city’s courts to teach families the sport. Celebrating the library’s centennial in 2018 challenged her to imagine activities and events to keep the citizens of Beaver engaged with the library and gave her an opportunity to host a rock concert. Angela has made the Beaver Library the community’s heart and is bringing her unique, rural contributions to the association.
Angela is an active member of Utah Library Association and was elected as a ULA Board Member-at-Large in 2019. She also currently serves as ULA’s Youth Services Round Table Co-Chair. She has served on various Utah State Library committees, representing rural library interests in training, certification, and funding allocation. She takes pride in bringing a small library perspective to the state library organizations. Angela regularly hosts the Utah State Library’s in-person trainings for that region of the state.
Angela enjoys imagining new programs and volunteering for library opportunities with any organization. She has become a wonderful contributor and leader in Utah librarianship. In all of her leadership roles, she exudes positivity, initiative, humor, and kindness.
Distinguished Service Award – James D. Cooper
James D. Cooper has served as the Director of Salt Lake County Library Services since August 2001. As Director, Jim leads the largest provider of public library services in the State of Utah, serving over 800,000 residents. He is responsible for the vision, direction, policy development and the delivery of library services throughout the system. Under Jim’s leadership, the Salt Lake County Library has been recognized as a top workplace in Utah, each year from 2015-2020.
During Jim’s tenure as director, circulation of materials and library visits have doubled. Jim has championed a number of library innovations, workflow improvements, and building projects to accommodate this phenomenal growth; including implementation of RFID, installation of Automatic Material Sorting Systems and the construction of seven LEED certified libraries, with two more opening in late 2021. Jim’s goal is to constantly anticipate, respond to, and exceed the community’s expectations for excellent public service, access to library materials, and high-quality programming.
His approach is to focus extensively on staff development, budget for collections, and maintain relevance for the library in a changing environment with diverse community needs. Jim has prioritized the library’s service to the Salt Lake County Jail facilities, partnering with health clinics, delivering library services to the homeless and refugee communities and advocating for library services to special needs populations. The library’s efforts have received national recognition, and have been modeled throughout the country.
Jim has served on the Executive Board of Utah Library Association, the Legislative Committee, and as the Public Library Section Chair for ULA. He served on the Program Committee for Public Library Association (PLA) and on the PLA 2014 Conference Planning Committee. He is also an active contributor in the Urban Libraries Council, and co-hosted the 2019 Urban Libraries Council Forum and Innovation Awards with the Salt Lake City Library.
The 2021 opening of the new Kearns branch begins the latest phase of new branches in Salt Lake County, with 2 more also set to open in 2021. These buildings reflect a changing understanding of library services, with flexible, people-oriented spaces at the heart of each branch. Through this extensive experience, Jim has become a nationally recognized leader in library design and construction, and was invited to participate at the Harvard School of Design’s Future of Library Design program in 2019 and 2020 as a speaker and panelist.
Salt Lake County Library’s mission has always been to make a positive difference in the lives of the members of our communities, and under Jim’s leadership, that mission has been realized for County Library staff, the citizens of Salt Lake County, and the wider state and national library communities.
Legislative Award for Excellence in Political Affairs and Library Advocacy – Rebekah Cummings
Rebekah Cummings is the Digital Matters Librarian at the University of Utah J. Willard Marriott Library where she coordinates digital studies activities and engages in digital scholarship. In 2018-2019, Rebekah served as the Utah Library Association President and since 2020 has served as the co-chair of the ULA Advocacy Committee. Rebekah’s primary areas of interest are digital humanities, data management, and intellectual property.
As the Co-Chair of the ULA Advocacy Committee, Rebekah has helped lead the Utah Library Association’s support for the USBE funding request “Utah Broadband Access Initiative”. Under her leadership, the committee facilitated the appointment of a Broadband Adoption Coordinator within the Utah State Library Division. Her efforts also helped gain the state $200,000 in seed grant monies for digital inclusion activities, such as refurbished device ecosystems, robust volunteer and “train the trainer” programs that provide one-one-one digital literacy training, and internet and device access points in priority locations such as multi-dwelling units (MDUs) and healthcare facilities.
Rebekah provided testimony in February of 2021 in support of HB 304 “Digital Opportunity Access Amendments” which requests $120,000 to create a Digital Equity Director in the Utah State Library Division (USLD) and codifies the existence of a statewide digital equity plan.
Rebekah has also served as State of Utah Intellectual Freedom watchdog, where she monitored HB38, supporting efforts to add language that will strengthen it by clarifying the responsibilities of the digital resource providers. She also tracked local elementary school book/curriculum challenges, attending meetings to coordinate appropriate responses. Her outstanding advocacy and leadership continue to benefit Utah Libraries and Intellectual Freedom throughout the state. Rebekah does all this as a tenure-track University Librarian while raising her family in Salt Lake City.
Special Service to Libraries Award – Karen Ashton
Karen has always been one to sing the praises of reading, learning, and growing with the help of a library. Even as the busy mother to 11 children, Karen regularly volunteered as a storyteller for storytime. She also invested an incredible amount of time and energy into the early Friends of the Library group for the Orem Library. Karen looked for ways to support the library and encouraged others to do the same.
Over 30 years ago, Karen spearheaded efforts to expand the Orem Library to allow more space for children. She started conversations, garnered political support, and began fundraising efforts to build a new children’s wing. She felt like storytelling was a unique art form that could be shared with Utah residents, so the Friends of the Library started a storytelling festival to raise funds for the construction of the proposed children’s wing. The Children’s Wing of the Orem Library celebrated its 25th birthday in 2020, serving hundreds of thousands of library patrons.
The Timpanogos Storytelling Festival continued to partner with the Orem Library for decades. When the festival moved to its most recent home at Thanksgiving Point, the Festival committee dedicated the balance of their shared fund to the Library’s new construction endeavor, an auditorium space adjacent to the Library. Karen recognized the need for a dedicated programming space and championed the construction of a facility with a 500-seat auditorium, a classroom, and an art lobby. Discussions about this new facility began in 2009 and it was finally opened in March 2021. The Ashton Family Foundation was a keystone donor for the project. .
Regardless of circumstance, Karen Ashton has been a passionate friend to libraries. She raised her family in Orem, so the Orem Public Library has been particularly blessed by her service and investment. She has left a permanent mark for good on the Orem Library community.
Outreach Award – Shelly Ward, Elizabeth Weaver, Ellen Thayn
Shelly Ward, Elizabeth Weaver, and Ellen Thayn have over 50 years of combined library experience serving in all different levels of public and academic libraries. This past year allowed them to discover new ways of reaching beyond the physical boundaries of the library and connect with patrons locally and internationally through their efforts. Shelly, Elizabeth, and Ellen provided outreach through Digital Escape Rooms, Adult Lecture Series, and Elementary-aged/Homeschool Activities.
All three librarians designed and tracked several Digital Escape Rooms that reached classrooms and individuals worldwide, from countries such as Australia, Malaysia, and Saudi Arabia. The Escape rooms further literacy skills and improve both math and logic–great for those kids who are home trying to do on-line learning or just socially distancing from family members across the country.
Shelly Ward’s Adult Lecture Series provided a platform for national and international experts to share their knowledge on topics such as life during the Regency Period, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and the Great Great Grand-Daughter of Madam C.J.Walker, A’Lelia Mae Perry Bundles. Shelly has found knowledgeable experts from across the country willing to address that virtual group of adults just itching to learn something new. Ellen Thayn became the face of our programs and worked with presenters on how to use technology and moderated our virtual lectures.
Elizabeth Weaver developed strong relationships with teachers and librarians at the schools in the Taylorsville area. She continued to maintain contact during the library closure and found new ways to provide outreach. Elizabeth virtually shared monthly book talks in different classrooms. Elizabeth provided Facebook story times, STEM, and craft videos for the library system. She also created monthly take home craft kits for children and teens. Elizabeth has excelled at virtual outreach and programming.
Ellen Thayn has been a librarian for over 6 years but has worked or volunteered in libraries her entire life. She has been the Adult Services librarian at the Taylorsville Library for the last two years, after working at the Mountain View Public Library (CA), Murray Public Library (UT), Springville Public Library (UT), Harold B. Lee Library (UT), and Fremont Public Library (IN). In the bottom of some box somewhere, she still has her first grade assignment that reads: “When I grow up, I want to be a librarian.”
Shelly Ward has been a librarian for over 19 years. She has worked as a Youth Services librarian at the Taylorsville Library for 17 years. Before that, she was a Children’s Librarian at the Nampa Public Library in Idaho and worked in circulation at the Provo City Library. Shelly loves being a librarian because of the opportunity to learn, be creative, and connect with people in the community.
Elizabeth Weaver has been a librarian at the Taylorsville Library since 2012. Before that, she worked as a library aide at the Marriott Library at the University of Utah, in the Government Documents Department, and as a shelver for both Millcreek and Holladay Library. Originally, she thought she’d go into academic librarianship, but once she started working at a public library, she was hooked.
The group says, “We worked as a team on programming and outreach and discovered more efficient ways to program that we plan to use going forward. Adjusting to our new normal reignited our passions for libraries and supporting our community. We know that every librarian out there feels the same and we continue to be inspired by the amazing work that happens in our profession.”
President’s Award – Colleen Eggett
Colleen Eggett has had an eclectic mix of library service over the past 30 years. Her record includes: Primary Children’s Medical Center Librarian; 9 years as a Public Services Librarian at Salt Lake County’s Taylorsville Branch; the Utah State Library for 13 years as a Training Coordinator, Consultant, Reader’s Advisor at the Library for the Blind, and Library Resources Program Manager; American Fork’s Library Director for 3 years, and most recently as Utah State Librarian from 2018 – 2021.
During her tenure as State Librarian she also served on the Utah Education Telehealth Network Board. In 2018 private groups challenged UETN about EBSCO databases hosted on their K-12 online resources. Colleen was initially a lone advocate on that board for keeping the databases open for students. As the review of the challenge progressed, Colleen helped inform and collaborate with ULA’s Advocacy Committee to overcome the ban and challenge, restoring the databases to schools. She regularly met with our national representatives to promote Utah libraries on National Library Day on the Hill. In her other roles at USL she championed library funding and policy initiatives with the state legislature, and led in the development and assessment of online and technology resources for libraries.
She received her Bachelors of Arts in Family and Consumer Studies at the University of Utah and her Masters of Library Science from Emporia State University. She is a 2007 Mountain Plains Library Association Leadership Institute Fellow.
Colleen has impacted many libraries and ULA members throughout her career. She has consulted with and trained library leadership, defended resources in schools, promoted Utah library interests at the highest national levels, and more. Utah libraries will continue to benefit for years to come thanks to her tireless efforts.
Special Recognition Award – Brandon Bowen
Brandon Bowen is the Director of Learning Resources and a Reference and Instruction Manager at Ensign College (formerly LDS Business College) and has been there for 7 years. Previously, he was at Purdue University Fort Wayne, Indiana and at Indiana University Bloomington as an Information Services and Instruction Librarian and as an Assistant Instructor. He graduated Cum Laude from Utah State University with a dual Bachelors of Arts in History and in Liberal Arts and Sciences. He then graduated Cum Laude from Indiana University Bloomington with a dual Masters of History and Library Science. He speaks Chinese and was the co-founder of the USU Asian Culture and Academics Society. Along with Sarah Sorenson, and Emily Underwood, Brandon won the 2017 Community and Junior College Libraries Section EBSCO Community College Learning Resources Award presented by the American Library Association’s Association of College and Research Libraries division for their “There’s a Monster in the Library” program. The program was an online tutorial for information literacy instruction stylized as a virtual comic book and utilizing gamification principles and techniques.
Brandon served as the Utah Library Association Program Board Vice-Chair, Chair, and Past Chair 2019-2021. Throughout late 2019 and early 2020, under President Vern Waters, Brandon led the effort to prepare and organize the program for the annual ULA Conference “Acuity 2020.” He and his board had completed nearly all the work up to the final board meeting ahead of the conference including the program organization, presenter and poster contacts, and everything else. Then the COVID-19 pandemic suddenly closed many libraries and forced the ULA Board to make the difficult decision to cancel the conference, effectively negating all the effort Brandon, Program Vice-chair Liz Gabbitas, Vern, and Conference Chair Teagan Eastman had made. Brandon and Liz quickly pivoted to contact all presenters and, under Liz’s leadership, provided a way for many of them to present at the 2020 Virtual Fall Workshop.
The Special Recognition Award is being given to recognize Brandon’s great work up to the final weeks to prepare a wonderful conference. Though it did not come to the intended fruition, the ULA Board thanks Brandon for his great work and admirable in the face of exceptional circumstances.
Special Recognition Award – Barbara Winters
Barbara Winters has served as Utah Library Association’s Executive Director since September 2013, stepping down following the 2021 ULA Conference. She simultaneously worked full-time the past two years to manage the Hanford Safety Library and teach as a Training Program Coordinator at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Volpentest Hazardous Materials Management and Emergency Response Federal Training Center in Richland, Washington. She previously spent 6 years in the Canyons School District as a District Library Media Specialist managing forty-three school libraries (K-12), 13 secondary librarians, and 58 media specialists. She was Fort Herriman’s Teacher Librarian for 4 years and a Circulation Librarian for 8 years at Utah Valley University.
Barbara earned a Bachelors of Arts in Elementary Education at UVU, a Masters of Library Science from Emporia State University, and a Masters of Learning Technologies and Design from the University of Missouri-Columbia. Barbara served as the American Library Association’s Library Instruction Roundtable 2013-2014 President, instituting their inaugural awards ceremony. She has been involved in volunteer efforts during the past decade through the Hope Humanitarian, Room to Read, and Happy Feet organizations. Through that service she has assisted in building an elementary school cafeteria in Totora, Peru and has climbed to Mount Everest’s base camp.
The Special Recognition is awarded to Barbara for her dedicated work to the Utah Library Association membership for the past 7 years. She served as the Executive Committee’s right-hand while leadership transitioned annually. She helped manage the transitions and maintenance of ULA’s membership database and website platforms, facilitated elections, participated in the Bylaws Revision, and assisted with COVID adaptation. The ULA Board thanks Barbara’s many contributions to the progress of the association.
Distinguished Service Award: To recognize a member of the Utah Library Association with the most significant record of contribution throughout her/his career.
Librarian of the Year Award: To recognize a member of the Utah Library Association with the most outstanding contribution to librarianship in the State of Utah for the previous calendar year.
Special Service to Libraries Award: To recognize an individual or group who has demonstrated remarkable support for libraries and librarians through a single effort or sustained contribution.
Special Recognition Award: This special award strives to recognize librarians who have served in or assisted with the management of ULA in leadership or organizational positions.
Legislative Award for Excellence in Political Affairs and library Advocacy: To recognize an individual or group who has demonstrated consistent dedication to being an advocate for libraries on the national, state or local political stage.
Outreach Award: To recognize an individual or group who has made notable outreach efforts to expand library services or access to information to underrepresented populations.