By Tia Lynn Ivey MANAGING editor
About 60 people gathered at the Morgan County Library last week to celebrate Steve Schaefer, former director of the library, who was named Librarian of the Year by the Georgia Public Library Service (GPLS). According to the GPLS, “Georgia’s 2015 Public Librarian of the Year is Steve W. Schaefer, who retired this year from his position as director of the Madison-based Uncle Remus Regional Library System. The award recognizes a full-time and professionally licensed public librarian whose innovative and creative talents are instrumental in the delivery of outstanding library service to his or her library and the communities it serves.” “I am very honored and touched by this award, especially since I am the first to receive it,” said Schaefer. “I am certain that there are many who deserved the award more than I, but I love it all the same.
Advocating for public libraries is no job for cowards or the demure. I have made friends and enemies during my career, but I am equally grateful to both since they made me all the more dedicated to a relentless crusade to provide quality public library service to each and every resident of Georgia.” “Early in my career, I chose a radical path in administering library services. Many of my colleagues thought I was crazy. I may have been and remain crazy,” said Schaefer. “But I am the crazy one with the initial Librarian of the Year Award. I suppose it is true: nothing ventured, nothing gained.” Schaefer delivered a speech at the celebration, highlighting the vital services libraries provide for the public. “Even if the Uncle Remus Regional Library System is our here and now, our real duty is to all Georgia residents,” said Schaefer.
“Each and every time I go into a public library, I am awestruck. Please imagine it with me. Look at the people: old, young, and in-between; all kinds of skin hues and languages and types of citizenship; rich, middle-class and poor; educated and those who seek education. These are my people. And since you are here, they are your people.”
“These patrons expect the public library to be there when they need it, providing all types of services, and they expect the public library to be there forever. To them it is just there, as it should be,” continued Schaefer. “To us it is the most American of institutions; a place dedicated to the freedom to self-educate, to self-inform, to encourage literacy, to promote the arts, the sciences, the humanities, and even commerce; to entertain and stimulate not only the mind but the soul. How can we let our people down?” Ben Carter, the current director of the Morgan County Library, was honored to learn from Schaefer while taking over his position. “We are very pleased with the outstanding nominations that Steve received for the award,” said Carter. “Not only is he one of the great advocates of Georgia’s public libraries, he inspires a love for public libraries as a vital public institution. Steve truly embodies the ideals of public library leadership; I am personally glad to have had the opportunity to work with the Librarian of the Year.” The Georgia Public Library Service honors “the outstanding service and achievements of Georgia’s public libraries, librarians and library champions.” “We’re so pleased to be able to recognize the work of those who help make our libraries exceptional,” said State Librarian Julie Walker.