Celebrating Skye Patrick, Librarian of the Year | ALA Midwinter 2019

Spirits were high on the evening of Friday, January 25, when LJ celebrated 2019 Librarian of the Year Skye Patrick with a reception at Seattle’s Hotel Theodore.

Spirits were high on the evening of Friday, January 25, when LJ celebrated 2019 Librarian of the Year Skye Patrick with a reception at Seattle’s Hotel Theodore. The award, sponsored by Baker & Taylor, recognizes Patrick’s dynamic work as director of LA County Library—one of the largest library systems in the United States, with 87 library facilities serving 3.4 million people—as well her trailblazing career as LA County’s first African American and openly LGBTQ+ library director. (In her previous role as director of the Broward County Library, FL, Patrick was the second African American, first openly LGBTQ+, and first woman to hold the position.) 

The event drew library luminaries from around the country. In addition to her wife and daughter, Patrick was celebrated by LA County staff members; John Szabo, city librarian at the Los Angeles Public Library; Kelvin Watson, current Broward County, FL, director; LJ’s 2018 Librarian of the Year Lance Werner, director of the Kent District Library, MI;  and many more friends and fans.

LA County has much to celebrate. In addition to her Librarian of the Year award, LA County Library won LJ’s Marketer of the Year award in 2018. Patrick also pointed to numerous programs and initiatives the library has instituted since she arrived—three years ago to the day of the party, she said, including The Great Read Away, LA County Library’s fine forgiveness program; Turns the Tables DJ Workshop for local youngsters; initiatives to reach at-risk youth and young adults of color; an expanded Career Online High School program; ten Maker mobiles and five early literacy mobiles; a full-service library at Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall in partnership with the Los Angeles County Probation Department; and an additional 15,000 service hours that incurred no additional taxpayer costs. 

“I could have a hundred million great ideas, but if I have no one to help me revise [and] execute those ideas, it means nothing,” Patrick said about her team. She applauded those in attendance—Chief Deputy Yolanda De Ramus, CIO Binh Le, Assistant Director of Capital Projects Pat McGee, and Assistant Director of Public Services Jesse Walker-Lanz—and her board (“my five bosses”). She also gave a heartfelt thank you to her wife, Dawn Robinson-Patrick, and their daughter, Kaia-Skye. Some notable library leaders who guided her career got a shout-out as well, among them Szabo, Jill Bourne (San José, CA, LJ’s 2017 Librarian of the Year), Siobhan Reardon (Free Library of Philadelphia, 2015 Librarian of the Year), Luis Herrera (formerly San Francisco, 2012 Librarian of the Year), Brian Bannon (Chicago Public Library, a 2009 LJ Mover & Shaker), Vickery Bowles (Toronto Public Library), Nick Buron (Chief Librarian, Queens Library, NY), and Dale McNeill (assistant director for public service, San Antonio Public Library).

Patrick also made a point of highlighting her lineage as an African American library director, pointing out other leaders who paved the way: Rhea Brown Lawson (Houston PL), Jo Anne Mondowney (Detroit PL), Eva Poole (Virginia Beach PL), Marcellus Turner (Seattle PL), Scott Hughes (Bridgeport PL, CT), Cyndee Sturgis-Landrum (Evansville Vanderburgh PL, IN), Felton Thomas (Cleveland PL), Rose Dawson (Alexandria Library), Tracie D. Hall (formerly vice president of strategy and organizational development at Queens Library), and Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden, LJ’s 1995 Librarian of the Year, and, Patrick noted, the last African American to receive the honor. She also acknowledged that there are others poised to make their mark, among them Watson, Kim Johnson (Tulsa City-County Library), Floyd Council Sr. (Tulsa), Edward Melton (Harris County, TX), and Roosevelt Weeks (Austin, TX).

"And there are many, many other powerful directors out there. I'm just one of them,” Patrick said. “I call upon all of you all the time. You hold me down, you keep me up, and I thank you for that, each one of you.”

“I think we're going to see a lot more of Skye,” said LJ Editorial Director Rebecca T. Miller. “I look forward to continuing to see your career thrive, and the gifts that you're going to give to all of us in our work, because we're learning from you all the time."

Patrick and John Szabo, City Librarian, Los Angeles Public Library

Patrick and Marcellus Turner, Director of Seattle Public Library

Kelvin Watson, Director of Broward County Library, FL, and Patrick

Susan Benton (center r.), President and CEO of Urban Libraries Council, offers her testimonial (with Indianapolis Public Library CEO Jackie Nytes, l.)

Vailey Oehlke, Director of Multnomah County Library District, OR

Michele Gorman, Assistant Director of Public Services at Fort Worth Public Library, TX

Skye Patrick thanked her supporters, staff, family, and many role models

LJ Editorial Director Rebecca T. Miller presents Patrick with one of two plaques commemorating her Librarian of the Year award

Three Librarians of the Year: Deborah Jacobs (1994), recently director of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's Global Libraries initiative; Patrick; and Lance Werner (2018), Director of Kent District Library, MI

Patrick and Aman Kochar, Executive Vice President of Public Library Sales and Technology, Baker & Taylor

Patrick with daughter Kaia-Skye Patrick and the LA County team: Assistant Director of Public Services Jesse Walker-Lanz, Chief Deputy Yolanda De Ramus, Assistant Director of Capital Projects Pat McGee, and CIO Binh Le

Jacobs and Rolf Hapel, Distinguished Practitioner in Residence, University of Washington Information School

Jim Cooper, Director of Salt Lake County Library Services, UT, and Gretchen Caserotti, Director of Meridian Library District, ID

NYLA Sustainability Initiative cochairs Matthew Bollerman, Director of Hauppauge Public Library, NY, and Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, Executive Director at Mid-Hudson Library System, NY, with Miller

Dawn Robinson-Patrick, Skye Patrick, and their daughter, Kaia-Skye


Photos by Kevin Henegan


Author Image
Lisa Peet


Lisa Peet is Executive Editor for Library Journal.

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