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.

2022 Award Recipients

Librarian of the Year – Mary McFarland

As Information Specialist at Eccles Health Sciences Library, Mary primarily coordinates and provides delivery of the Clinical & Translational Science Institute (CTSI) Systematic Review Core and the University of Utah Libraries Evidence Review Team services for output of high-quality evidence reviews, such as systematic and scoping reviews, which includes expertise in methodologies, tools, expert searching and citation management. Additionally, Mary provides research consults and assists with instruction in both curriculum and non-curriculum settings on evidence-based healthcare, literature searching, citation management, NIH Public Access and library resources.

“After receiving training on evidence-based practice and systematic reviews, Mary serves as the Evidence Synthesis Services Information Specialist at the University of Utah libraries. Mary is the expert within the state of Utah on these methodologies and we are so fortunate to have her on the team.”

President’s Award – Catherine Bates

 Catherine Bates is a teacher librarian at Brighton High School in the Canyons School District who encourages the love of reading to more than 1,500 students. During her nine years at the library she has taught research using online databases and Creative Writing II. She has also supervised numerous academic and extra-curricular clubs: Debate Club, Book Club, Anime Club, and the Young Democrats. She has a Bachelor’s degree in English from BYU-Idaho and a Master’s in Instructional Technology with a School Library Media emphasis from Utah State University. 

Catherine refused to remove nine titles from her school library due to an email complaint which would violate the district’s own reconsideration policies. She was told to remove the books anyway. She pulled the books and notified the National Coalition Against Censorship. The story of the Canyons School District and the nine titles removed from the Brighton High School library was featured in a variety of media channels including The Salt Lake Tribune, Deseret News, Q Salt Lake Magazine, The Daily Utah Chronicle, The Guardian, KUER:NPR Utah, KSL News, KUTV 2News, Fox 13 News, ABC4 Utah, Radio West, Public News Service, Associated Press, Vice.com, BookRiot.com, TheSpectrum.com, Reddit, Facebook, and Twitter. 

Catherine was an effective defender of the freedom to read by pushing back and speaking up about pulling books on topics that make some people feel uncomfortable. Her actions and words brought attention to the importance of following the rules when library books are questioned and the importance of curating a diverse and inclusive school library collection. Catherine’s experiences were the catalyst to the formation of the Utah Library Advocates group who held a press conference with a number of coalition partners to reaffirm that libraries protect students’ first amendment rights.

Conversations around book banning and inclusivity continued in school board meetings. Catherine addressed the Canyons School Board in December and in January a Canyons school librarian read a Statement from the Utah Library Association in Support of School Libraries and Librarians. Parents, teachers, librarians, leaders, and the general public now have a better understanding of how following established library collection development and reconsideration policies, as well as state and federal laws, ensure the health, well-being, safety, and success of all students in Utah. And most of the Canyons School District library books in question have been returned to the shelves.

Rita Christensen, the Utah Library Association President, is grateful for Catherine’s “example of a librarian who loves her job, intentionally curates an inclusive library collection, and continues to protect our First Amendment freedoms by taking the responsibility seriously to contest any attempts to reduce or deny access to information.”

Read Colleagues’ Impressions of Catherine!

Distinguished Service Award – Paula Mitchell

Paula Mitchell, Special Collections Librarian and Associate Professor of Library Science, has been at Southern Utah University for 21 years. She oversees the Special Collections, University Archives, and Digitization Departments at the Gerald R. Sherratt Library at Southern Utah University. Paula teaches Children’s Literature in the Library’s Media Endorsement program, Archives: Principles and Practices, and Information Literacy courses. This semester, she is co-teaching a History of Southern Utah University class to celebrate SUU’s 125th Founding Anniversary. And of course, being a librarian, she LOVES to read!

“Paula is a model of how archivists should work with the public, and, loves what she does. She is passionate about sharing her knowledge and making the story of our community relevant, accessible, and present.”

Outreach Award – Donna Baluchi

Donna Baluchi (she/they) is the Interim Associate Director for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion at Spencer S. Eccles Health Sciences Library (EHSL), University of Utah. She holds a Master of Library and Information Science degree from San Jose State University (2019), and two bachelor degrees from California Polytechnic University, Pomona. As EHSL Public Services Supervisor for five years, they endeavored to create an atmosphere that is accessible, welcoming, safe, and inclusive for all              who seek EHSL library services. They are a participant in the multi-year, grant-funded Leading the Charge: Advancing the Recruitment, Retention, and Inclusion of People of Color within the Library and Information Science Field. As an advocate for period equity, they began providing free menstrual products within their library in 2018, and have distributed over 400 low-cost menstrual cups in Utah, with another 400 planned for this year.

“Donna’s ability to partner, support, and promote projects demonstrates how libraries can support public health initiatives.”

Legislative Award for Excellence in Political Affairs and Library Advocacy – Crystal Young

Crystal is the Executive Director of Utah Cultural Alliance (UCA) and has over 15 years experience working in nonprofit arts, consulting, branding, fundraising, event planning, advocacy, and elections. Crystal serves on the boards of SLC Planning Commission, Utah Arts Alliance, Tanner Humanities Center, Americans for the Arts’ SAAN Council (State Arts Advocacy Network), Utah Women & Politics PAC, LDS Dems (emeritus chair), BYU Political Affairs Society – UT chapter (co-chair), Better Utah Institute, UTOPIA Early Music, and is an active member of Utah Women’s Forum. Crystal is a composer and coloratura soprano. Her educational background is in music theory, humanities, economics, marketing, and musicology and composition.

“Crystal has been tireless in making introductions and helping to set up meetings with the right people at the right time. She advocated for libraries at every turn and made herself available at all hours.”

Legislative Champion Award – Senator Luz Escamilla

Senator Escamilla is a third term Utah State Senator serving District 1 since 2008 and serves on the Senate leadership team as the Senate Minority Whip. In contrast to Senator Escamilla’s deep knowledge of Utah politics and vast experience in legislating, the Utah library community is still in the process of learning how to advocate for
library funding and have a voice on library issues with our local and state representatives. In the 2022 legislative session, Senator Escamilla was not only our library champion, but our guide as well. Peter Bromberg first reached out to Senator Escamilla in Fall 2021 when book challenges were just starting to heat up in Utah. We knew that other groups in Utah were building a narrative about libraries that stood in contrast with what we know to be true, that libraries are safe and welcoming spaces for people of all ages that promote education, literacy, and community. But how to make our voices heard in the legislature? How could we tell our story about libraries to those with power and influence?

On November 23, 2021, members of the ULA Advocacy Team met with Senator Escamilla, and, after hearing our concerns, she said “Here are some things you can do…” at which point I think Peter and I took about 6 pages of notes in the next 30 minutes. Senator Escamilla encouraged us to change the narrative by hosting a press conference and inviting the media. To build a coalition of likeminded advocates. To run a bill during legislative session or request infrastructure funding. To do a resolution or citation on the Senate floor in support of libraries to build goodwill in the legislature. With each suggestion Luz would say, “And I can help. My staff can help. Give me some library requests, and I’ll run it” So we did. We did many of the things that she suggested on that initial call, and Luz was as good or better than her word, supporting libraries through the process of creating a Request For Acquisitions for public library infrastructure and sponsoring a citation to make February “Library Lovers Month” in Utah. In front of her colleagues on the Senate floor, Senator Escamilla spoke passionately about libraries, highlighting our role as a place for afterschool programs, community gatherings, and small business development; a place that fosters innovation and helps our community overcome the digital divide.

“As a result of her mentorship and support, not only did librarians receive a crash course in Utah state advocacy, we received an additional $750,000 in public library broadband infrastructure funding as well. Senator Luz Escamilla is a fierce advocate, amazing mentor, and tireless champion of libraries.”

Special Service to Libraries Award – Jeff Griffiths

Jess and his wife Allison moved to Park City full time at the end of 2010 for the lifestyle and schools. His daughter Alexandra, born in Park City, attends kindergarten at McPolin. Seeing it as the easiest way to join the community, Jess joined a number of local organizations: a trustee on the Park City Library Board, a mentor and client at PCCAPS, a mentor at Pando Labs, a member of the Park City Angels Network, and a Men4Ed founding member. Jess is passionate about helping the next generation round out their learning experience. An avid skier, tennis player, and mountain biker, Jess also represented Team USA in the International Triathlon Union World Championships in Germany.

“While on the Library Board, Jess believed that every child should have access to books in their classroom and home. This dedication was seen through his direction on the board and by his dedication to strengthening the relationship between the Library and Park City School District.”

Special Recognition Award – Juan Tomás Lee Morales

I was born and raised in Southeastern Mexico and when I came of age, I migrated north in search of a meaningful life. Much of that meaning came among stacks of books and at the service desks in public libraries. I am in debt to my family for giving him the freedom to spend long hours learning and serving. I am also eternally grateful to the feed mill that gave me a chance to start a life in the US; to the Salt Lake City Public Library for encouraging and nurturing a budding librarian; to Centro de la Familia de Utah for teaching me that the essence of the immigrant experience can be found in the smiles of Head Start families; to the Utah State Library Division for trusting me to share experiences with librarians, trustees, and elected officials around the state; to the Wasatch County Library for giving me an opportunity to see if what I learned can be useful; and to my colleagues, for putting up with my discursive prose all these years. To all ya’ll, thank you.

“Juan’s deep understanding of each library in the state, library boards, library administration, and Utah politics makes him a valuable asset to us all.”


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.