Belgrade Community Library has been named the 2011 library of the year by the Montana Library Association.

An award will be presented at the MLA's annual conference in Billings on April 7, according to a statement issued Friday.

"Belgrade Community Library has worked hard to build partnerships and secure funding to support collection growth, prevent a reduction in hours, and continue to add new programs and services on a limited budget," according to a statement from MLA Executive Director Debra Kramer.

The library has been "especially diligent" about serving the community "and is first and foremost a leader in identifying and filling gaps in services," Belgrade School Superintendent Candy Lubansky said. "With their focus on partnerships, they are regarded as a valuable player when it comes to community input. ... (And) customer service is always a priority."

Each year, Montana librarians nominate people who they feel made award-winning contributions to their libraries. Other awards will go to:

= Librarian of the Year: Marilyn Trosper, director of the North Lake County Library District for "her tireless work and perseverance against all odds to establish the North Lake County Library District, officially launched in July 2010."

= Outstanding Support Staff of the Year: Amy Ling, library assistant at North Valley Public Library for going the "extra mile to get to know all of our patrons on a personal basis"; spearheading a popular Spanish outreach program; assisting with grants; organizing library volunteers, social media outlets and First Friday performances; and volunteering to take on additional work to improve the library and foster goodwill between staff, volunteers and patrons."

= Honorary Lifetime Membership in MLA: Peggy Smith, librarian at Skyview High School in Billings for her work organizing retreats MLA workshops and programs, often "with little fanfare or thanks."

= Pat Williams Intellectual Freedom Award: Niki Whearty, librarian at Helena High School for her work following a parent's objection in 2010 to use of Sherman Alexie's book "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian," in the classroom. Whearty managed the challenge professionally, "coordinating activities of participants and using policies and procedures to ensure that the complainants' concerns are thoughtfully addressed," while trying to ensure students "continue to enjoy free and open access to information and ideas."

= Trustee of the Year: Albert Martens, a trustee for Rosebud County Library who has spent 25 years doing "whatever was needed" to maintain quality libraries and staff. He has been an advocate for development and promotion of school libraries, a supporter of professional development for librarians, and has remained "open to developing innovative programs," including a proposal to introduce iPods for audio books loaded with class novels and flip-video cameras for student checkout to do class assignments."


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