Awards - MLA

Librarian of the Year | Heart of a ChampionRising StarLegislator of the YearFrances H. Pletz Award

MLA Annual Awards

MLA professional recognition awards celebrate excellence in the Michigan library community and recognize supporters who go above and beyond to advance the library profession, serve their communities and advocate for our libraries. Our prestigious awards honor those individuals who serve selflessly every day to bring library service to their communities and serve their patrons.

Nomination forms and guidelines for the 2020 awards will be available in Spring of 2020.


Sponsored by the Walter H. Kaiser Award

For more than 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.

Cathleen Russ Named 2019 MLA Librarian of the YearCathy Russ photo in front of bookcase

The Michigan Library Association (MLA) is pleased to announce that Cathleen Russ has been named the 2019 MLA Librarian of the Year. Russ received the award during the MLA 2019 Annual Conference Awards Luncheon on October 17 in Novi.

Russ is a well-respected leader in the library community. Her letters of recommendation consistently state that she is a leader who inspires, embodies grace under pressure and empowers others to reach their full potential. Her heart for mentoring and educating the next generation of librarians is outstanding. Her enthusiasm for providing great service to the culturally diverse community of Troy is unending. With her vast knowledge of library administration, budgeting, customer service and collection development, Russ is sought out by librarians across the state for advice and mentorship.

“As we read through the letters of support for Cathleen’s nomination it became clear that she has been a guiding force for Michigan librarians on both a micro and macro level -- she has mentored library professionals one-on-one, taught our profession’s fundamentals and ethics in formal classroom settings, coached colleagues at statewide workshops, and advocated for all Michigan libraries on the Board of the Michigan Library Association,” said Juliane Morian, MLA Awards Subcommittee member and Annual Conference Chair. “In short, Cathleen elevates librarianship from occupation to vocation.”

Russ has served as Director of the Troy Public Library in Troy, Michigan since 2007. She holds a Master’s of Library and Information Science from Wayne State University and a Bachelor of Arts, Honors, Communications from Loyola University Chicago. She currently serves on the Board of the Michigan Library Association.

Past Librarian of the Year Award Winners

2013 | 2014 | 2015 | 2016 | 2017

Librarian of the year winners 1988-2019 (pdf)



Sponsored by the Walter H. Kaiser Award

The Heart of a Champion Award was established in 2012 to recognize a library supporter who has shown an exceptional commitment to libraries and/or the library profession. Winners of this award will show their support to the library profession through continued advocacy, supporting or providing funding for the local library, or continued support of Michigan Library Association activities.

Donna Adams Honored With MLA 2019 Heart of a Champion Award

The Michigan Library Association (MLA) is pleased to announce Donna Adams has been named the 2019 Heart of a Champion, sponsored by the Walter H. Kaiser Fund. Adams received the award during the MLA 2019 Annual Conference Awards Luncheon on October 17 in Novi.

As Board President for the Forsyth Township Public Library in Gwinn, Adams has worked tirelessly to promote her library. From cooking for a fundraiser, publishing a cookbook, creating and building cabinetry, finding free shelving from a university across the state and coordinating volunteers to pick up, transport, deliver and assemble the shelving (during a snow storm!), to organizing a library millage campaign that was instrumental to funding a new library building, Adams leads the way with grace and a humble spirit. Adams’s diligence, leadership and service to her library and community truly epitomizes the Heart of a Champion.

“Donna Adams is a driving force in the Forsyth Township community. From advocating for and finding funding to build a brand new building to working on the library board, Donna leads the way,” said Lisa Mulvenna, member of the MLA 2019 Annual Conference Work Group and Awards Subcommittee. “She is constantly sharing both her time and talents with her library community.”

Past Heart of a Champion Award Winners

2013 | 2015


Rising Star

The MLA Rising Star Award, previously named the Up & Comer Award, was established in 2012 to recognize a librarian who shows leadership early in his or her career. While new to the profession, he/she expands the role of librarian through being forward-thinking and moving libraries into the future. Winners of this award will be energetic efficient librarians who push the boundaries of originality and creativity. They will help to establish a library culture that sets high expectations, promotes learning, and creates an understanding of the library as an integral part of the community. The Rising Star Award winner will also have been a librarian for 5 or fewer years.

Danielle DiAmico Honored as MLA’s 2019 Rising Star

Danielle DiAmico headshot

The Michigan Library Association (MLA) is pleased to announce Danielle DiAmico has been named the 2019 Rising Star. DiAmico received the award during the MLA 2019 Annual Conference Awards Luncheon on October 17 in Novi.

DiAmico is truly a rising star in libraries. Well respected by fellow staff and patrons alike, she is passionate about giving back to the community-building programs, collections, and new activities to meet the needs of patrons. After serving as a department head at the Bay County Library System for little more than a year, her accomplishments inspire other staff, and her desire to make libraries increasingly relevant in the community is remarkable.

DiAmico has been instrumental in building and implementing new programs, collections and activities to meet diverse needs in the community. From her annual “Kids Helping Kids” program where children make or create something that helps others; to creating and fundraising for STEM kits; to school outreach, including teambuilding “breakout boxes” for teens; playing her ukulele for local students; and making sure elementary students without a school library received library cards. DiAmico’s warmth, kindness, passion for the library profession and service to her patrons and community make her truly deserving to be named the MLA 2019 Rising Star.

Past Rising Star (Up and Comer) Award Winners

2012 | 2014 | 2018



The MLA Legislator of the Year is awarded to elected officials in recognition of outstanding leadership in promoting libraries and supporting legislation or amendments that advance our legislative goals. The award recognizes lawmakers for their action on legislation impacting libraries and for their work supporting libraries and the communities they serve.

State Senator Paul Wojno Honored as the MLA 2019 Legislator of the Year

State Senator Paul Wojno (D-Warren) has been named the Michigan Library Association (MLA) 2019 Legislator of the Year. Wojno received his award at the MLA Awards Luncheon during MLA 2019 Annual Conference on October 17 in Novi, MI.

Senator Paul Wojno has served Macomb County in the Michigan Senate since 2018. Wojno also proudly served in the Michigan House of Representatives from 1997 to 2002 and is being recognized as Legislator of the Year for his stalwart support of libraries throughout Michigan.

“Senator Wojno championed new legislation that provides liability protection for libraries when providing the life-saving opioid antidote naloxone to an overdosing patron,” said MLA Executive Director Deborah E. Mikula. “His support and leadership were essential to the success of the Narcan bill package, signed into law this past June by Governor Whitmer.”

While he states that he didn’t do this alone, MLA is recognizing him as the driving force in the Michigan Legislature to accomplish a two-year endeavor that began back in 2017 to move this package of bills and get them signed into law. “When Senator Wojno was elected, this package of bills was something he felt strongly and passionately about and got behind immediately. So many people were involved, but Senator Wojno was our driving force,” stated MLA President, Kristin Shelley, Director of the East Lansing Public Library.

List of Past MLA Legislator of the Year Honorees


Representative Lee Chatfield (R-Levering)

Senator Rick Jones (R-Grand Ledge)

Senator Jim Stamas (R-Midland)


Senator Jack Brandenburg (R-Harrison Township)


Senator Jack Brandenburg (R-Harrison Township)


Senator Jack Brandenburg (R-Harrison Township)



The Frances H. Pletz Award for Excellence in Service to Youth is given annually to a Michigan library staff person who has made an outstanding contribution to the field of library service to youth, ages 0-18, throughout their career. The award is named for Frances H. Pletz, a former Executive Director of the Michigan Library Association, because of her exemplary library service to teens in our state. This award was established in 1978 by the Young Adult Division of the Michigan Library Association and was given to a teen librarian. In 2010, the Pletz Award combined with the Children’s Services Award of Merit to create the Frances H. Pletz Award for Excellence in Service to Youth.

Cathy Chesher Named 2019 Frances H. Pletz Award Winner

Cathy Chesher photo with Pletz Award plaqueThe Michigan Library Association (MLA) is pleased to announce Cathy Chesher is the winner of the 2019 Frances H. Pletz Award for Excellence in Service to Youth. Chesher was honored at the 2019 Spring Institute Conference on March 29, 2019 in Bay City.

Chesher has served as a Youth Services Librarian at Adrian District Library for more than 20 years. Prior to her work at Adrian Library, she worked in Ohio serving children. Colleagues and patrons have described her as innovative, intelligent, cutting-edge, generous and caring.

"Throughout her career, Cathy Chesher has made an outstanding contribution to the field of library service to youth in Lenawee County," said Cassie Veselovsky, member of the Frances H. Pletz Award subcommittee. "The passion for her community and its members is evident in how she researches and obtains grants to support library-community endeavors, leads volunteers in taking on active roles in the library and tirelessly provides a variety of youth programming."

"She exemplifies the role of a community youth librarian and clearly demonstrates the ability to excel at adapting and molding the changing library environment. She is truly deserving of this honor," said Gail Madziar, retired MLA Executive Director.

Past Frances H. Pletz Award Winners

2014 | 2015 | 2016 | 2017 | 2018


Uniting the Michigan Library Community

MLA is proud to partner with organizations serving the library community.