This year the MLA is honoring two outstanding elected officials with a special MLA Legislator of the Year recognition. This recognition is for leadership in promoting libraries and supporting legislation or amendments that advance our legislative goals.
State Representative Jim Stamas and Senator Geoff Hansen have worked tirelessly to advocate for increased funding for Michigan libraries to ensure libraries are available for Michigan residents in the future.
When one thinks of service to the library profession, one thinks of Larry Neal, MLA’s 2013 Librarian of the Year. His stand-out mentorship qualities, passionate advocacy and commitment to libraries of all types are among the reasons he was selected to receive this honor.
His contributions to the profession are broad. Larry participates in on the national level as the current president-elect of the Public Library Association. He was also recruited as a mentor for the ALA Emerging Leaders Program and Spectrum Scholarship. On the statewide level, He is a past president of MLA and former Legislative Committee chair, where he continues to serve as a committee member and whose contributions have propelled MLA’s advocacy efforts to great heights. Larry also helped design the LibraryCareers.org website, which Library Journal described as a jargon-free website that explains why the career would appeal to people with a variety of interests and skills, the kinds of libraries and positions they might fill and how to become a librarian.
Larry is a dedicated and conscientious library leader, able to bring people along to make an organization the best it can be. He is known for his intelligence, common sense and sense of humor. He has the ability to make complicated ideas easy to understand and holds firm to the belief that libraries are joyful places where all are welcome.
For over 30 years, the MLA Librarian of the Year Award has recognized a librarian’s outstanding contributions and accomplishments to the library community over a long period of time. Winners of this award provide innovative library service to his or her community and promote collaboration among libraries. The MLA Librarian of the Year shows evidence of personal and professional achievement as well as initiative and creativity. They are leaders who provide cutting edge ideas that inspire people. Only one award is given out each year.
Robert Kelly is currently Collection Development Librarian at Eastern Michigan University. In 2005, he retired from the University of Michigan as an emeritus senior associate librarian after working at the Kresge Business Library (4 years) and the U of M Dearborn Mardigian Library (16 years). He and his wife, Judith Kelly, reside in Plymouth and both enjoy botany, photography and traveling.
Describe yourself in 3 words: Hardworking, engaging and compassionate
What do you like most about working in libraries? I’ve worked in virtually all aspects of libraries from technical services and systems to public service, circulation and administration and the thread that runs through them all is my belief in service to our patrons/clients. The patron/client may be internal (other librarians, staff, faculty, students) or external (the Provost, President, librarians at other institutions). The support that you can provide - be it through your management of resources, assisting in a reference question, or providing data to back up a point - is what gives a kick. The work is varied, challenging, changing and at times demanding. In the end, it is working with others as a team to identify and support the information needs of our patrons/clients that gives me the most satisfaction.
Why did you join MLA and is it the same reason you are still a member? I originally joined MLA to meet with other academic librarians and understand the challenges and activities in which they were engaged. As a systems librarian I wanted to engage specifically with similar librarians and so was heavily involved with the Library Technology Division. That provided me with excellent experience in working with and leading a diverse group of individuals to achieve common goals and activities which supported the MLA functionally and financially. I still support the mission and goals of MLA, however my responsibilities at EMU have required me to reduce my regular engagement with MLA.
With back to school comes back to Lansing for our legislators. Session begins in September and our lobbyist GCSI is already lining up meetings with Representatives and Senators so we can talk about issues important to libraries. As always, one of those issues is funding and more specifically millages. We worked last year to make sure our elected officials were aware of the huge dollars being funneled away from libraries via DDAs and TIFAs. Again this year, we plan to address some solutions for this financial drain to our libraries.