ULA Awards

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 2020 Winners

Librarian of the Year – Raquel Ruiz

Raquel started with Salt Lake County Library as a Custodian in 2013. She had a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting from her home country of Mexico, and went back to school to get her MLS and began her career as a public librarian.

Raquel spreads her zeal for library services by overseeing several projects. She promotes Salt Lake County Library resources to Utah’s Hispanic/Latinx community weekly through the Radio (Placer 107.1 FM) as a guest speaker. She organizes monthly outreach programs with the Mexican Consulate, and hosts Annual Community, Education, & Health Fairs within libraries. During the Pandemic, Raquel has continued reaching her community through online conference calls for programs such as Computer Basics for Spanish Beginners, Spanish for Librarians, and facilitating a Spanish book club. People come from all over the valley to see Raquel “their librarian” because she is so welcoming, friendly, knowledgeable, and willing to help. She is a wonderful example of a librarian who reaches out to everyone and partners with them to promote library services.

Raquel says, “I am honored to receive this recognition as Librarian of the Year Award 2020; and I am grateful to those colleagues and Managers willing to collaborate and support the projects in which I have worked in the SLCO Library System. But I want to give a special thanks to my mentor Ms. Cindy Smiley (Taylorsville Library Manager) with whom I started this wonderful adventure.”

Distinguished Service Award – Dorothy Horan 

Dorothy has served as a librarian for 40 years. She will be retiring this month from the Family History Library and FamilySearch, where she has spent her career. She has worked as a United States/Spanish Records Cataloger, User Guidance Supervisor, Reference Consultant, and Acquisitions Team Leader. She is an accredited genealogist and now works with the FamilySearch Research Wiki. She obtained a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Radio and Television and a Master’s of Library Science, both from the University of Arizona.

Dorothy has contributed to the Utah community through her volunteer efforts at the Salt Lake Comic Con, FanX, and Fantasy Con over various years. Over the years she has served the Utah Library Association in many ways including the 2007-2008 President, the Mountain Plains Library Association Representative, the Special Libraries Section Chair and Vice-chair, and over 10 years as a chair and member-at-large of various committees and roundtables. Most recently she has served on the Past Presidents Committee and Genealogy Round Table. During her presidency she oversaw the most recent joint MPLA/ULA conference. She also contributed to the publication “Utah Library Association 1912-2012: Essays in Honor of Its Centennial.”

Dorothy advises, “If you have ever thought about becoming an officer in ULA, don’t hesitate.” Congratulations to Dorothy on her exceptional service and support for Utah libraries.

Special Service to Libraries – Dr. Scott L. Smith

Scott has championed the cause of libraries for more than a quarter century. The direct result of his sustained investment of time, talent and financial means is the viability of not one, but two public libraries. Dr. Smith graduated from BYU and has advanced degrees from the University of Utah Medical School, Duke University Family Medicine Residency, and Harvard School of Public Health. He is married to Catherine Smith, and they are the parents of 5 children and 8 grandchildren (all great readers). Despite a successful and busy medical practice, Scott has volunteered countless hours to promote and support both the American Fork and Highland City libraries.

Dr. Smith served on the Highland City Library Board for eight years. His was a crucial voice in advancing the Library’s efforts to become a full member of the North Utah County Library Cooperative, and he currently serves on the Highland City Council, a position that allows him to effectively campaign for libraries.

Dr. Smith has been actively involved with the American Fork Library for twenty-five years. He has volunteered as a member of the Friends of the Library since its inception and started the annual Scary Story Contest, which has grown to a yearly tradition with hundreds of participants. He also supports other programs to reach underserved communities, including memory care outreach, youth intern opportunities, monthly mental health and wellness workshops, and the Book Fairy project.

Dr. Smith says, “I believe that a city library serves not only as an essential resource promoting literacy, but is also a ‘community gathering place’ that inspires and uplifts!

The Outreach Award – Vern Waters, Lisa Henderson, and Deanna Simonis

The Outreach Award Winners are Vern Waters, Lisa Henderson, and Deanna Simonis. While all working at the South Jordan branch of the Salt Lake County Library, Vern, Lisa, and Deanna created a new and innovative outreach program. They presented adult storytimes to memory loss patients at assisted living centers. They used poetry, stories, music, and pictures to encourage patients to find old memories and engage their minds. The patients appreciated when this team came to see them and shared their storytime, but the experience was sometimes heartbreaking. None of the memory care patients “get better.” Lisa’s vision for the program, Deanna’s tireless research, and Vern’s musical talents combined to create a rewarding and pleasurable pursuit. Currently, Vern, Deanna, and Lisa are working to create a mobile version of their Memory Care Storytime program to serve that supportive community, regardless of librarian access to facilities.

Lisa was inspired to create this outreach program while caring for her mother as she suffered from memory care issues toward the end of her life. She used library resources and experience to create daily activities for her mother. Since starting in 2018, Lisa and the team have held over 120 of storytime events, serving hundreds of residents in memory care facilities.

Deanna Simonis is a family librarian at the Smith Branch of the Salt Lake County Library as well as a non-practicing attorney, former Peace Corps Volunteer, and a foster parent for special needs dogs. She spends her programming hours trying to combine her dual passions for outreach and serving the underserved—both human and nonhuman—in fun and creative ways. When she’s not working Deanna shares her home with her husband, two teenage boys, three dogs, and a chicken, as well as foster dogs from the local Humane Society.

Vern Waters is currently the manager of the Columbus Branch in the Salt Lake County Library. After working at libraries in Weber County and Broadview University, he started his County career by going to jail (library branch), where he was pleased to discover a passion for helping underserved populations. He championed rights to information for blind incarcerated persons and LGBTQ individuals while there. Vern says about this program, “It has been such a pleasure to get the chance to work with such talented and creative people. A special thank you to ULA for honoring us and this program.”

President’s Award – Mindy Hale

Mindy has worked for both the Orem Public Library and Salt Lake County Library System. She has a bachelor’s degree from Brigham Young University and a Master’s degree in Library Science from Emporia State University. At the Orem Library, she worked in a variety of roles over nine years. She started out as a part-time clerk, moved on to community relations work, and then advanced to an associate librarian position. Mindy’s commitment to the local community and patrons secured her a spot as the librarian over Adult/Teen Reference Services. She is a passionate guardian of the freedom to read and worked hard at developing a strong collection and a safe haven for LGBTQ teens. Mindy is very handy. She could fix anything at the Orem Library that required power tools. She enthusiastically came to Salt Lake County to work at the Jail Libraries. She has been a valuable asset to the Jail Library in providing reference and reading materials to those she served.

Mindy is married to popular graphic novelist Nathan Hale, and they have two children. She grew up in Provo Canyon in a family of cross-country skiers. Mindy is a licensed Yoga instructor. She attended a European Study Abroad program during her last semester at Emporia.

Julie Heckert, Orem Library Associate Librarian, says that she has always been impressed by Mindy’s “work ethic and her passion for librarianship. She is committed to diverse collections, patron access and has a strong vision for the future of the public library. Mindy is an asset to the Utah Library Association community.”


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.