2014 Award Winners

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Library of the Year:  Wisconsin Resource Center (WRC) Library in Winnebago

Wisconsin Resource CenterThe Wisconsin Resource Center (WRC) Library is named Library of the Year for reaching new heights of service to an incarcerated population with severe and persistent mental health needs. In 1983, the WRC was established to treat Wisconsin inmates for aggressive treatment for health needs ranging from anxiety and depression to schizophrenia.  Until 2013 the library was a function of the Education Department until it became its own “power library.”  In a short amount of time, library staff has made dramatic improvements to the physical library, including live plants, new and positive signage, a welcoming and inviting paint job, and an aggressive weeding campaign to improve the collection. These efforts alone resulted in a 238% increase in circulation.  Additionally, the library has accomplished a remarkable amount of effective programming in one year, including:

  • An Amnesty Day, forgiving fines and fees, even for those who destroyed books when ill;
  • A Scavenger Hunt to help inmates better understand the Dewey Decimal System and library resources;
  • Cultural and film programs and book groups;
  • An art exhibit featuring an “outsider artist” with severe schizophrenia who used his art and music to control his mental illness;
  • Inmate art and poetry displays. 

The library staff has worked tirelessly to market and promote the library by making tours mandatory for new staff, organizing inmate book reviews for the newsletter, creating partnerships with community organizations, performing a promotional rap at the annual talent show and much more. Library Director Sara Krouse and her crew “blinged” out in gold chains and headphones, and brought down the house with a rap song at the talent show. 

 Psychological Associate Therapist, Amy Parmley wrote, “She [{Sara} was their self-described ‘bibliotherapist’ beseeching them to come to the library and expand their minds while doing time and not just serve their time contently getting ‘3 hots and a cot.’ The positive response from the inmates was indescribable.” 

Sara created a sustainable vision for the library, which led to standards of accountability that curbed negative behavior and energized library staff.  The librarians have been a positive influence as well as an inspiration for many inmates because of the welcoming manner in which they run the library. The inmates themselves wrote from the heart and soul to recommend the Wisconsin Resource Center (WRC) Library to the Award Committee members. One inmate soon to be released said, “I will have high expectations for the public library in my community, but because of my experiences at this library, I will continue to use and enjoy the library system.”  

The WRC Library was nominated for Library of the Year because of proactively engaging inmates through programming, new trends in collection development and collaboration with other departments and organizations.  Most importantly, the WRC provides a safe and welcoming place to read, learn and get well. The nomination papers read, “Creativity, innovation and patron-focused community values drive these prison libraries to provide quality and valuable services to a severely underserved population.”  The WRC has soared in this last year and it is the Award Committee’s extreme pleasure to name the Wisconsin Resource Center Library the WLA 2014 Library of the Year.

Librarian of the Year:  Tessa Michaelson Schmidt, Youth and Special Services Consultant, DPI 

Tessa Michaelson SchmidtTessa Michaelson Schmidt has earned the title of 2014 Demco/WLA Librarian of the Year for her work as the Youth and Special Services Consultant for the Public Library Development (PLD) Team at the Department of Public Instruction (DPI).  Among many of her achievements, Tessa is the creator of the popular early literacy program, Growing Wisconsin Readers (GWR) that aligns with State Superintendent Tony Ever’s 2017 Agenda.  “GWR has become a galvanizing effort across hundreds of Wisconsin Libraries, building a bridge between literacy within the home and school through the library,” according to Assistant State Superintendent Kurt Kiefer for the Division for Libraries and Technology (DLT). Simplifying the LSTA grant writing process, she enabled libraries in small communities to receive funding to provide appropriate and necessary services for literacy, such as 1000 Books before Kindergarten.  Recognizing the immense opportunities for libraries to reach populations in a novel setting like health care, she guided librarians throughout the State to write LSTA grants for literacy, partnering with Reach Out and Read programs. As an advocate for statewide literacy and professional learning, she has proven to be a strong communicator. She has reached many by the use of social media like Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and her blog site. Tessa has touched many lives by reorganizing the DPI Youth and Special Services Department and affecting positive change to the libraries that she serves.  Tessa Michaelson Schmidt is young, professional and a digital dynamic that has achieved excellence in the work place and earned her place among the WLA Librarians of the Year. 


Trustee of the Year:  Cari Schaffer, Schreiner Public Library Board of Trustees 

242147 2028885728849_6828399_oThe WLA Awards and Honors Committee named Cari Schaffer as Library Trustee of the Year. She became a member of the Board of Trustees for Schreiner Public Library in Lancaster in 2010 and currently serves as vice president. In every way, she represents the library at meetings, community events, and public forums and at work. As a rural veterinarian, Cari has access to more people than the average trustee, and she promotes the values and mission of the library to the community and surrounding areas. She is a true steward of the library using sound judgment, communicating library rights, such as Freedom of Information and Freedom to Read, when setting library policy.  Public Library Director Jennifer Bernetzke said, “Although many libraries have wonderful and deserving library trustees, I truly believe that Cari Schaffer is one of a kind.” 

 In 2012, she accepted the position of Chair of the Fundraising Campaign and Planning Committee and represented the Board of Trustees on the Lancaster Public Library Foundation. She hit the ground running by pursuing a Community Development Block Grant that was awarded in 2013 for library expansion and renovation. The goal for the project is to create a larger, more efficient library which is ADA compliant and has space for the community. With 2.8 million in pledges and cash, the fundraising for the library renovation is moving toward full funding and completion of the project in 2015.  Laurie Walker, Library Board President, noted that “The love of our library and the need for it to grow for the future for our community propelled her {Cari} to step-up to the plate.” 

Active in every aspect of the current library expansion and renovation of the Schreiner Public Library, she is deserving of the nomination for an award. Aside from fundraising, it is certain that Cari Schaffer won Wisconsin Library Association’s Trustee of the Year for her character, passion, and dedication to her Schreiner Public Library in Lancaster.  


Citation of Merit:  Allen Buechel, Fond du Lac County Executive 

Allen BuechelIn his nomination letter, Hall wrote, “Allen recognizes the myriad ways that libraries support democracy, literacy, diversity and the economic well-being of county residents. More than any other non-librarian I’ve known – and perhaps more than many librarians – Allen Buechel understands the broad impact of libraries on the communities he serves.” 

Goldsmith, who noted her 21 years of working with Allen, wrote, “In Allen Buechel, I saw another believer in the power of libraries to change people’s lives, to provide them with a wealth of resources they might otherwise not be able to access, that could provide them with learning, entertainment and valuable resources for their daily lives. His commitment has significantly enriched the lives of the people of our county more than we can probably ever know. ” 

Part of Allen Buechel’s legacy as county executive will be enabling access to a world class education at home in Fond du Lac. He was instrumental in the planning and renovation of the UW-Fond du Lac campus, including a state-of-the-art library.  His management of stable and adequate funding for materials and services in libraries during a downward economic turn is outstanding, along with his love and respect for learning, has earned him the WLA Citation of Merit for his outstanding contribution to library service. 


Muriel Fuller Award: Martha Gammons, Public Relations Coordinator, Arrowhead Library System 

Martha GammonsMartha Gammons, Public Relations Coordinator for the Arrowhead Library System (ALS) is the 2014 winner of the Muriel Fuller Award. The Award recognizes a professional for accomplishments which have significantly improved and benefited library services.  Both Muriel Fuller and Martha Gammon are similar in professional character in that both inspire Wisconsin Libraries. Working for the Arrowhead Library System Martha assists seven member libraries to create and produce brochures, flyers, booklists, library websites and other promotional materials. She is the creator of ALS Monday Memo Newsletter, which features ALS System news, but also library news at the state and national level. Tina Kakuske, Head of Adult Services for Beloit Public Library, said that “Martha is a tireless advocate of libraries and takes the library on the road to County events like the 4-H Fair, Rock County Baby Shower and the weekly radio show. She is referring to Martha’s radio spot on WCLV that reaches Rock, Dane, Green and Walworth Counties. 

Martha Gammons values libraries and takes every opportunity to promote library use to community agencies. She is a founding member of the Wisconsin Library Association Foundation (WLAF) Campaign for Wisconsin Libraries Action Committee. She is renowned for her work in two major public relations campaigns, Wisconsin Libraries Say Cheese and The Great Outdoors @ Your Library. Martha was and is a key player in facilitating the Affordable Care Act rollout in Rock County. She worked with the Rock County Human Services Department and Director Philip Boutwell, said “she {Martha} was able to use her knowledge and skill to develop library resources that gave the public the information it badly needed to make informed decisions.” 

Former director of the Arrowhead Library System Ruth Ann Montgomery noted that it would take pages to list all of the activities that Martha has organized and promoted in the 14 years she advocated libraries. Simply said, Muriel Fuller was a mentor and inspiration for Wisconsin Libraries and Martha Gammons is deserving of the award in her name because she is a true inspiration among today’s library advocates. 

WLA congratulates each winner and a reception will celebrate their accomplishments at the Annual Conference at the WLA conference at the Kalahari Resort and Convention Center, Wisconsin Dells, November 6 at 5:30 p.m. http://wla.wisconsinlibraries.org/events-conferences  

The WLA Awards program is supported by the WLA Foundation through individual charitable contributions.  The WLA engages, inspires and advocates for library workers and supporters to improve and promote library services for the people of Wisconsin.  The awards program is one way the association acknowledges the dedication of its members to provide exemplary library serve to the people of Wisconsin.