LJ Celebrates Sacramento Public Library, Winner of the Jerry Kline Community Impact Prize | PLA 2020

Library Journal’s reception at PLA celebrated Sacramento Public Library, the inaugural winner of the $250,000 Jerry Kline Community Impact Prize, for the many ways it is deeply embedded in its community. Director Rivkah Sass brought some 16 SPL staff members—all color-coordinated in purple and gray “#1” team jerseys—as well as Sacramento City Council member and Mayor Pro Tem Angelique Ashby to join the party.

Sacramento Public Library staff and director and others on stage at Jerry Kline Community Impact Award Reception at PLA
Sacramento Public Library staff gather onstage for LJ's Jerry Kline Community Impact Prize reception at the PLA 2020 conference, joined by Miller (top row, 4th from r.) and Ashby, Kline, Sass, and Gerald M. Kline Family Foundation Grants Director Leslie Straus (front row center, l.-r.)

Nashville might not have demonstrated its best weather during the Public Library Association (PLA) 2020 conference, February 25–29, with temperatures hovering in the 40s and cold rain. But attendees’ spirits weren’t dampened, and despite news of the coronavirus and an uncertain political climate, the prevailing mood was one of good will. In the absence of a conference-wide theme, the word that came up perhaps most often was trust—the ongoing work of trust between patrons and library workers, the need for trust between libraries and vendors, and the social capital libraries hold as the country’s most trusted institutions.

Trust was certainly at the forefront of the conversation at Library Journal’s Jerry Kline Community Impact Prize reception on Thursday, February 27. Sacramento Public Library (SPL), the inaugural winner of the $250,000 prize, was celebrated for the many ways it is deeply embedded in its community—serving its constituents and being inspired by them in turn. Director Rivkah Sass brought some 16 SPL staff members—all color-coordinated in purple and gray “#1” team jerseys—as well as Sacramento City Council member and Mayor Pro Tem Angelique Ashby to join the party.

SPL “delivers on engagement with civic partners on civic priorities, and with community members in bubbling up ideas for the library to answer their needs,” said LJ and School Library Journal Group Publisher Rebecca T. Miller. Its leaders “deliver on inclusion of people in their community and people on their staff. They deliver on leadership development, making sure that that next generation of library leaders is in place and ready to face the specific and expanding challenges that libraries are grappling with. They deliver on sustainable practices, to help our world with challenges that we're already facing. And they deliver consistently, all the time, every day, on innovation in their approach to service design, and their flexibility in terms of their approach.”

After a few words from Kline, Sass invited her staff onstage. “I work with the very best people in the world,” she said, “and I wanted to make sure that you saw all of them, from our youth services librarians who deliver more than 200 early learning experiences every month throughout our library system, to our management team, who's totally reinventing what we do from the ground up.”

Sass also applauded the library’s supporters in the room, from mentors to vendors, adding, “We’re all in this together, people,” and turning the mic over to Ashby.

“Libraries in cities like Sacramento are the best shot we have at reaching the most unlikely people to succeed,” said Ashby. She enumerated SPL’s many services, from internet access to free meals to Career Online High School—Sass noted that of 156 graduates who earned their high school degree at the library, 80 percent have gone on to college.

“You did the right thing to choose Sacramento,” Ashby told Kline. “For the next ten years, as you give this award away, you're going to have a terrific example to point back at and show people these folks up here in the purple—how hard they work."

In closing, Ashby offered a note that was both somber and uplifting, invoking slain SPL librarian Amber Clark. “A lot of times, I've noticed, you learn to speak in one voice because you have grieved together in one voice,” she said. “I feel so strongly that Amber is in this room and in this space with us right now. I can just feel her smiling at us and saying, ‘Good job, you guys. Way to fight.’ And the fact that this award is about outreach to the community and the impact on the people we want to serve—that's what she was about, that's what we're about. Mr. Kline, that's what your award is about.”

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Lisa Peet


Lisa Peet is News Editor for Library Journal.

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