2007 Award Winners

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Library of the Year

MiddletonLibraryMiddleton Public Library

WLA is pleased to name Middleton Public Library as the 2007 Library of the Year. The Middleton Library represents the best of the award’s criteria: sense of place in the community, municipal support, stellar staff, creative and popular programming, great holdings, and an exceptionally engaged community. Board President Patricia Bornhofen says, “Anyone who has worried that libraries might be becoming obsolete in the new electronic era should go to the Middleton Library to see how unfounded that concern is. We’ve had almost three years now of unprecedented records for circulation and attendance. The real concern may be parking.”

In fact, following a remodeling and expansion project that was completed in 2004, program attendance has increased an amazing 300%. That’s not surprising, given the friendly and knowledgeable staff team, led by Director Paul Nelson, and their focus on tailoring service to their users. The engaged library board, active Friends group, and strong support from city officials also position this library to provide exemplary service.

City Administrator Mike Davis says, “Middleton Public Library serves as the hub of a dynamic Downtown Middleton, inviting visitors to explore our City both at the Library and beyond.”

The Middleton Public Library just might be one reason Money Magazine ranked the city number one on their 2007 list of “Best Places to Live.”

DEMCO Librarian of the Year
Sturzl2-001Alice Sturzl
Instructional Media Specialist,
School District of Laona

For her distinguished service to the library profession, outstanding involvement in professional organizations, and more, WLA is pleased to select Alice Sturzl as 2007 DEMCO Librarian of the Year. From her promotion of libraries and information literacy in Laona Schools to her involvement in local, regional, and statewide library and education organizations, Alice Sturzl has made numerous important professional contributions during the past 30 years. In addition, she has personally mentored and encouraged many other budding educators and librarians and set an example as a forthright and honest professional.

Heather Eldred, Director, Wisconsin Valley Library Service, says, “Give Alice a job and she’ll do it – and do it well! Ask for her opinion and she’ll give it – thoughtfully and straight on. She adds humor and common sense to every gathering.”

According to nominator Kathy Pletcher, Associate Provost for Information Services at UW-Green Bay, the impact and significance of Alice’s contribution to education and librarianship stem from her deep commitment to improving library services, supporting teaching and learning, and serving the library profession. She has served on Department of Public Instruction committees, the Wisconsin Education Association Council, Laona Education Association, Wisconsin Valley Library Service Board (currently as President), Board Of Trustees of The Edith Evans Public Library in Laona, Forest County Library Board, Friends of the Edith Evans Community Library, Wisconsin Valley Library Association, and Northeastern Wisconsin In-School Telecommunications Advisory Committee. In addition, Alice served as WLA President in 1997, and has held many other leadership positions within WLA and the WLA Foundation. She is also a member of the Wisconsin Educational Media & Technology Association. Alice Sturzl’s dedication, versatility and leadership acumen make her a worthy DEMCO Librarian of the Year.

Trustee of the Year
LWilson-001Lowell  Wilson
Lakeshores Library System

For his work advancing library service, his involvement in library matters beyond the local community, for his wisdom and persistent devotion to the ideals of good library trusteeship and much more, WLA is pleased to select Lowell Wilson as 2007 Trustee of the Year.

“Lowell Wilson is a man of motion, always going forward – whether piloting his plane, dancing the night away (long after most younger people have retired for the night, mind you) or keeping up on the latest in the library world,” says Kate Bugher, Past President of Wisconsin Educational Media & Technology Association (WEMTA), in support of Lowell’s nomination for Trustee of the Year.

In fact, Lowell has been in motion ever since he started his career in school libraries in the mid-1940s. He was instrumental in forming statewide professional organizations for audio-visual professionals and served as president of the Wisconsin Audio-Visual Association from 1973-1976. In 1975, Lowell became active in WLA as a member of the division for trustees, chairing the group in 1991. He continues to be an active member of WLA and WEMTA and remains on the board of the Wisconsin Library Trustees & Advocates, a division of WLA. Several years ago, WEMTA established the Lowell Wilson Scholarship to invite practicing certified teachers to enter the library media field. Lowell has served on the board of the Lakeshores Library System since 1983.

As a library trustee, Lowell is constantly learning and encouraging other trustees to participate in library association conferences and leadership opportunities. He has attended most, if not all, Library Legislative Days in Madison, because he takes his advocacy responsibilities very seriously. He is a consistent protector of intellectual freedom, adamantly opposed censorship and Internet filtering, while defending a library patron’s right to privacy and freedom of access to information.

Highsmith Award
HedbergStaffWLAHedberg Library Friday Family Fun Night
Carthage  College, Kenosha

For nearly five years, Family Fun Night has been a gift from Carthage to the local community, using an innovative programming model that can be replicated easily and inexpensively by libraries in other communities. For these reasons and more, Hedberg Library Family Fun Night is selected for the 2007 Highsmith Award.

Family Fun Night provides free, interactive programs on topics ranging from music and geography to international cultures and physics. One week’s program could feature an author, while another could allow participants to use spectroscopes to view the visible color spectrum and a spinning human gyroscope to study properties of angular momentum. Not only do local community members benefit, but the college students, faculty, and staff benefit from preparing and guiding the various activities.

The coordinator of Fun Nights, Kathy Myers, keeps expenses low by featuring on-campus and other local talent in the programs, and by calling on local organizations and resources to promote the programs. The formula obviously works, as a broad range of people from throughout the Kenosha and Racine area attend, along with Carthage faculty, students, and staff and their families. There is no question that this Carthage “gift to the community” has provided significant recreational and learning opportunities for the local community and serves as a model for other library outreach programs throughout the state.

Muriel Fuller Award
Bea LebalBea Lebal, Director
T.B. Scott Free Library, Merrill

For improving community access to library resources, developing collaborations with local organizations to promote library services, and other contributions to library services that benefit users, the WLA selects Bea Lebal for the 2007 Muriel Fuller Award.

Stacy Stevens, assistant director of T.B. Scott Free Library, writes that the library is an integral part of the Merrill Community because of Bea’s tireless efforts to make the library more than just a place to check out books. Bea partners with local artists, the senior center, public schools, legal experts, and others to continually expand services and resources to the community through the library.

Though Bea does not consider herself technologically adept, she communicated her vision for better service through technology and persuaded the library board and city to invest in expanded computer systems and ILS software in 1992. Ultimately, these efforts meant that Bea was poised to help lead the implementation of the Wisconsin Valley Library Service’s shared automated system, V-Cat, in 1999. That system now serves 22 of the 24 WVLS libraries, providing residents with direct access to 1.5 million items.

Bea also realized how important it was to have a Friends group. She started with one volunteer in 1999 and now, the group is an important means of support for the library. After growing the Friends group, Bea worked on growing the library, and in 2002, an expansion project that doubled the library size was completed. Doug Williams, Mayor of Merrill, states, “To Bea’s credit and hard work, the T.B. Scott Free Library is jewel for our community, and will remain for generations to come.”

Citation of Merit
Frank FiorenzaFrank Fiorenza, Potosi 

For outstanding contributions to quality library services by a Wisconsin citizen who is not a librarian or trustee, WLA presents the 2007 Citation of Merit to Frank Fiorenza, President, Village of Potosi.

When the bookmobile formerly servicing Potosi was discontinued in 1997, Village residents were required to drive to Lancaster or Platteville to visit a library. As a former educator and avid reader, Mr. Fiorenza recognized the importance of restoring library services to the Village. In 2005, space opened at the rear of the Village Hall, and though it was hard for many to envision it, Mr. Fiorenza persuaded the Village Board to support the idea of putting a library there.

He contacted potential partners in the Lancaster City government and public library and promoted the idea in both Potosi and Lancaster. He negotiated a three-party agreement for the operating and funding of the branch on a 3-year trial basis, oversaw the renovation of the site, and helped secure donations for shelving and some materials. After years of perseverance, Mr. Fiorenza’s idea for a branch library in Potosi became a reality in January 2007.

Recently, the Village of Potosi has been making significant renewal efforts, including new housing starts, a new restaurant, a major renovation of the historic Potosi Brewery, and a new events center. Thanks to Frank Fiorenza’s leadership and vision, the Village has also acknowledged the contribution a library makes to its quality of life and its sense of community. His efforts exemplify the contributions recognized by the Citation of Merit.

2005 Award Winners

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Library of the Year

RDLRhinelander District Library

Rhinelander’s library is formed by a joint library district consisting of the City of Rhinelander and the four surrounding towns of Crescent, Newbold, Pelican and PineLake. The Chief Executives of the five Rhinelander Area Joint Library District member municipalities nominated RDL for the award. Their nomination letter said, “We are very proud of our library and the many ways in which it enriches the lives of citizens in the greater Rhinelander area, regardless of age, interests, and educational or financial background.”

In making this selection, the Awards and Honors Committee noted the number and quality of achievements of Rhinelander library in just the last two years. The timing is particularly impressive since two years ago the Rhinelander Library District was threatened with major budgetary cutbacks and possible dismantling. The effort to save the library district in 2004 galvanized the communities’ support for and appreciation of their library.

According RDL Director Kristine Adams Wendt, “We are very excited to receive this award, which recognizes the excellent work of RDL staff members, along with the outstanding support of citizens who count on RDL to meet their information needs.”

DEMCO/Librarian of the Year

front-coverJohn Nichols
Director, Winnefox Library System and Oshkosh Public Library

For over twenty years John Nichols has been a library leader in Wisconsin. As director of the Oshkosh Public Library he has stressed public service and technical innovation. As a result of his efforts as director of Winnefox, libraries in the 5-county system have a high level of support.

Throughout his tenure, Nichols has looked for ways to knit the library into the fabric of the Oshkosh area, often looking to innovative technologies to serve the broader community. For example, Oshkosh Public Library has been a pioneer in the digitization of city directories and local history books. And the Oshkosh library has developed an Information and Referral database for communities in the Winnefox service area. With this data Oshkosh is poised to become one of the few libraries in the country operating a 2-1-1 call center and website. Nichols was also instrumental in developing the publication for the L.I.F.E. in Winnebagoland Report (Local Indicators for Excellence.) The Oshkosh Public Library reference department created and maintains the website for this information. This report has been used by local funders, planners and candidates for public office as a community planning document. John, the Oshkosh Public Library and Winnefox staff developed, published and maintain the official Oshkosh community website. He has also provided staff time to assist area nonprofit organizations like the Red Cross and Winnebago County Historic and Archeological Society to develop their own websites.

Beyond the efforts of his library affiliations, Nichols has been personally involved in the time and toil of building a better community. He was instrumental in the organization of the Oshkosh Collaboration Work Group, an organization of human services agencies and organizations and in 2005 he was awarded their Make a Difference Award for his contributions. Nichols has served on innumerable area Councils, Teams, Committees and Boards. Through his participation in community activities Nichols has increased the visibility and credibility of the Oshkosh Public Library and library services in general.

John Nichols has been an acknowledged Wisconsin library leader, especially in the area of helping to set state policy in technology areas. In the broader library setting, Nichols has been a strong advocate of “futurist” thinking about library services for the 21st century. In 2001 he was interviewed for the Library Journal “Future of the Library “ series and featured on the cover of the April issue.

Trustee of the Year
Kristi Williams 02Kristi Williams, South Central Library System Trustee

Kristi Williams has served on both the South Central Library System Board of Trustees as well as the Dane County Library Board. Williams has been active in the legislative arena on behalf of libraries, representing South Central at ALA Legislative Day in Washington and WLA Legislative Day in Madison. In his letter of support, South Central Board member, Tom Brown stated "Often in those legislative offices she was already well-known and obviously respected."

A tireless advocate in many venues for funding for libraries of all types, Kristi Williams has also served for several years on the Council on Libraries and Network Development appointed by the Governor. Kristi “is a known player," asserts Anne Iwata another long-term South Central Board member. "She is a hard worker, never shirking... Not only has the SCLS, but the Wisconsin library community been fortunate to leverage her interests and energy."

WLA/Highsmith Award
LAXHighsmith“La Crosse History Unbound”
Kelly Krieg-Sigman, Director, La Crosse Public Library, and Anita Evans, Director, Murphy Library, UW-La Crosse

(Pictured here, from left to right, standing: Paul Beck and William Doering, Murphy Library, UW-La Crosse; seated: Kathy Kabat and Anita Taylor-Doering, La Crosse Public Library. Not pictured is Peg Zappen, retired from La Crosse Public Library.)


Working jointly, La Crosse’s two major libraries have created a digital archive of La Crosse area history called, “La Crosse History Unbound”. This collaboration allowed development of a valuable local resource that neither institution could have produced independently. The joint content of this database is varied and extensive. For example, the Public Library has digitized historic city directories, many local and state government documents related to the city and newspaper articles from the La Crosse Tribune. Besides providing access to the pictorial and general histories of La Crosse and locales within the county, Murphy Library has also prepared and presented masters’ theses and seminar papers related to La Crosse. The Murphy Library staff has also tackled some very difficult material to present on the web, such as an early parade film originally mastered on dangerous nitrate film. This creative and innovative project allows access to historical La Crosse materials making them available to home and remote users and creating a local history portal available 24/7.

Special Service Award
sturzl1Alice Sturzl
School Library Media Director, School District of Laona

The WLA Special Service Award is reserved for individuals of noteworthy achievement as evidenced by substantial activities and exceptional service to the library profession. The 2005 Special Service Award is presented to Alice Sturzl. Sturzl has a lengthy and wide-ranging involvement with the Wisconsin Library Association where she served on numerous committees and held leadership positions including WLA President. This ongoing commitment to WLA activities is all the more impressive because of the sheer distance Alice travels to be available for these duties. Sturzl is school library Media Director for the School District of Laona. Laona is 250 miles, or about 4 hours drive, from Madison and the WLA office. Alice “gets up at o-dark-thirty in the Northwoods to drive all over the state for meetings, bringing doughnuts that are still warm,” says Kris Adams Wendt, who, as director of the Rhinelander District Library is no stranger to long distance library activities herself.

“Alice Sturzl was the heart of WLA,” says Larry Martin, former WLA Executive Director. “Her spirit, enthusiasm, dedication and love of libraries have helped to charge and lift the work of the Association these many years.”

Citation of Merit
EdMEdwin Majkrzak
Local historian and former library board member, Kiel

Described as "the Pilot Light" of the Kiel Library, Edwin Majkrzak, former library board member, author and local historian for the City of Kiel, is the recipient of the 2005 Citation of Merit. An active and committed library trustee until his retirement in mid 2004, Majkrzak has spent decades volunteering his time, his expertise in local and regional history, his knowledge of appropriate archival procedures and his prescient understanding of the importance of document preservation to assist the Kiel Library in their role of safe guarding local history. Nanette Bulebosh, Director of the Kiel Library said of Mr. Majkrzak. "Because of all his work, undertaken at his own initiative and diligently maintained despite physical handicaps, the library is able to provide to the public...a remarkable record of...this community."

2004 Award Winners

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Hedberg Library, Carthage College


Peter G. Hamon                                 Rob Reid
South Centeral Library System          Indianhead Library System

 Peter HamonRob Reid












laura gottlieb

Laura Gottlieb, Reference Librarian, Hedberg Public Library

Sandralee Thiele, president, Darien Public Library Board of Trustees

Marathon County Public Library

Donald Bulley, Trustee, South Milwaukee Public Library

No award in 2004.

2006 Award Winners

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Library of the Year

FDLPLFond du Lac Public Library

In nominating Fond du Lac Public Library as the 2006 Library of the Year, Lois Potratz, director of the North Fond du Lac Public Library, says there is no single accomplishment which makes FDLPL deserving of this award. Rather, says Potratz, “It is the culture of creativity, collaboration, and proactive service that makes FDLPL the consummate community library.” Some of the library’s recent accomplishments which illustrate its customer-centered focus include:

  • In February 2004, opening an inviting, technology-driven building.
  • Establishing a “lucky day” collection of no-hold best sellers.
  • Offering wireless Internet access.
  • Launching “Fond du Lac Reads,” a community wide reading program.
  • Setting circulation records in 2005 and 2006.
  • The “Busses to Books” campaign to provide free bus rides for kids to the library in the summers of 2005 and 2006.
  • Providing leadership in technology including the adoption of RFID in 2006 and promotion of the electronic branch.
  • Providing community leadership through its promotion of diversity, support for the visual arts and local artists, outreach to county residents, support for small libraries in the county, and partnering with community-based organizations.

Ken Hall, director of Fond du Lac Public Library, said, “There are many exemplary libraries in Wisconsin that might have received this award. We are honored that we should be selected by our peers as the Wisconsin Library of the year. I think it is a testament to the dedication of our staff, volunteers, and community partners to provide quality library service.”

Trustee of the Year
Paul003Paul Kanter

Paul Kanter, trustee with the Waukesha County Federated Library System, is being honored as 2006 Trustee of the Year. Paul has served on five separate Waukesha county committees for libraries since 2002, including chairing the Act 150 Strategic Planning Committee and the Waukesha County Library Governance Options Study Committee. Kanter balances his work for libraries with his professional duties as a U.S. Attorney and the chair of the Town of Delafield.

In supporting Paul's nomination, Waukesha County Board Chair James T. Dwyer called him “a true public servant” and said, “If he were fortunate enough to win this award I am sure he would give everyone else credit for his success.”

Paul is recognized for his intellect, sense of humor, and leadership, including his ability to guide groups to consensus on potentially contentious issues. He understands the dynamics and responsibilities of board and committee service. He studies the information required by his leadership positions, vigorously discusses the issues, and publicly supports the group’s decision once reached – even if it is not his preferred position. Others who have served with him consider him one of the most influential leaders for libraries in Waukesha County.

Muriel Fuller Award
StruckmeyerMary Struckmeyer

The Muriel Fuller Award is given to a library professional or paraprofessional in recognition of outstanding accomplishments that have significantly improved and benefited library services. The 2006 winner is Mary Struckmeyer, Supervisor of the Reference and Interlibrary Loan Unit, Reference and Loan Library (RLL), Madison. Some would call her a modern-day Lutie Stearns, because like the woman whose traveling libraries are considered the predecessor of the RLL, Mary has a passion for providing equal access to patrons of all types and sizes of libraries in Wisconsin's rural and urban communities.

Fellow staff at RLL call her “the heart of the Reference and Loan Library." Mary has been a mentor and inspiration to others in the profession. She is lauded by many as an innovator and a leader who effectively promotes the resources of the RLL to librarians, state agencies, state employees, and school personnel. To supplement the RLL’s resources, she has sought out subject experts and developed cooperative relationships with special libraries such as the Wisconsin Law Library, Ebling Health Sciences Library and other UW-Madison campus libraries. In addition, Mary was a leader in the development of the Wisconsin virtual reference consortium from its beginning in 2000.

Ulrike Dieterle, Ebling Library, summarized the feelings of many others when she wrote of Mary, “She is the consummate librarian, a generous collaborator, with a positive attitude and a willingness to help whenever, wherever.”

WLA/Highsmith Award
wagner“South Madison Branch Game Night ”

The South Madison Branch of the Madison Public Library receives the 2006 WLA/Highsmith Award for “Game Night at the South Madison Branch.” Conceived by branch manager Chris Wagner and Youth Librarian Carolyn Forde in 2005, library staff as well as teen workers and volunteers from the neighborhood planned and implemented the after-hours Game Nights on Tuesdays beginning in June through early August. One young participant’s anonymous evaluation card read, “If it was me and I was on the waiting list and you called me and said I could come, I would FLY to get there!”

On Game Night, the youth have many choices of activities, free from the constraints of the usual library rules: unlimited Internet access, a game computer, board or role-playing games, group games, art projects, and reading alone or in groups. When the pizza and snacks are served, library staff takes time to tell youth about books, movies or other library resources. Youth can check items out even though the library is “officially closed.” In addition, special guests such as a local game store owner and theatre and art teachers give participants the personal, focused attention that they crave.

The library staff report that, partly due to Game Night, participation in the 2005 Summer Library Reading Program increased by more than 23 percent and completion of the program increased from 9.6 percent to 45 percent. (The figures for 2006 were not yet available.) Staff also report fewer incidents involving negative interaction with youth.

This past summer, cumulative attendance at the seven after-hours Game Nights was 208 youth spanning ages 10 to 16, but primarily middle schoolers. Sixty-five percent of the attendees were African-American, 10% were Hispanic, 10% Asian American, and 15% white.

Special Service Award
Steve HirschSteve Hirsch

The WLA Special Service Award is reserved for individuals of noteworthy achievement as evidenced by substantial activities and exceptional service to the library profession. The 2006 Special Service Award is presented to Steve Hirsch, Executive Secretary, Public Records Board, State of Wisconsin Department of Administration. Hirsch guided a committee of public librarians through the muddy waters of creating a record retention schedule for public libraries in Wisconsin.

Hirsch’s knowledge of state records allowed the committee to use existing record models for state government, and he showed the group how those models extend to local government. Hirsch helped the committee evaluate each record series and come to consensus on the minimum retention period that would serve a library’s needs. His expertise about Public Records Board procedures, as well as applicable state records laws and administrative rules, was invaluable as committee recommendations were sent to the Wisconsin Public Records Board for final approval.

In short, Hirsch was essential to the process of crafting a document to guide Wisconsin’s 389 public libraries and 17 public library systems as to the retention of their non-active records.  

Citation of Merit
George MeadMead Witter Foundation, Inc.

The Mead Witter Foundation, Inc., located in Wisconsin Rapids, receives the 2006 Citation of Merit. In 2006, the foundation distributed $425,000 in noncompetitive grants to 65 public libraries in central and northern Wisconsin. The funding supported reference materials, circulating print materials, library furnishings for public use, computer equipment for public use, or special event programming and exhibits.

Lori Belongia, director of the Marshfield Public Library, which received one of the grants, said, “When an organization takes the initiative to make this type of financial commitment to support what you do, it has the warmth of a bracing arm around the shoulder. To say it another way, the money and what it can do is exciting, but acknowledgement of the value of libraries is even more encouraging.”

Ron McCabe, director of McMillan Memorial Library in Wisconsin Rapids, noted that this is the second time that Mead Witter Foundation has offered such generosity to libraries in the region. In 1997-98, the Foundation provided $394,400 to 57 public libraries. At that time, the Foundation was given the WLA Special Service Award under its previous name, Consolidated Papers Foundation.

2003 Award Winners

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Appleton Public Library, Terry Dawson, Director

Dr. Nicholas Burckel, Dean of Libraries, Marquette University

Fran Dieter, McIntosh Memorial Library, Viroqua

Carol Gibson, Administrator, Manitowoc-Calument Library System

La Crosse Public Library, "History Repeats Itself"

United States Senator Russell Feingold

No award in 2003.