Outstanding Librarian in Support of Literacy

The Outstanding Librarian in Support of Literacy Award recognizes a librarian who has demonstrated passion, excellence and dedication in support of adult literacy. Until 2018, the Library of Congress State Literacy Award in California was given by California Library Association’s Literacy Interest Group with funds requested and administered through California Center for the Book. Awards were given to individual librarians.

Two awards were given in 2018.  The Outstanding Librarian in Support of Literacy Award recipients each receive $1,000 and are honored at the CLA annual conference. The award is sponsored by the Library of Congress Literacy Awards and the California Center for the Book. The California Center for the Book is a recipient of a local Library of Congress Literacy Award for use in supporting state literacy initiatives. Through the generosity of David M. Rubenstein, the Library of Congress Literacy Awards program furthers the Library’s mission by honoring organizations that have made outstanding contributions to increasing literacy in the United States or abroad.

2018 Outstanding Librarian in Support of Literacy Award Recipients

Stacey Costello, Colusa County Free Library

Stacey Zwald Costello returned home to Colusa County after more than fifteen years in the Bay Area, where she worked as a Curatorial Assistant in the history department of the Oakland Museum of California, and later as Assistant Editor at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute at Stanford University.

Costello started her official tenure on the centennial anniversary of the Colusa County Free Library, and has since worked to broaden services and programming, update collections and take the library system into its second hundred years with the ability to meet the evolving needs of the community. Working with library staff, patrons, and community organizations, the library has been able to expand service hours, build collections more reflective of our community, revitalize branch locations and improve the overall health of the library.

Unfortunately, Colusa County currently has an illiteracy rate of 34%.  In just under 3 years of Costello taking the helm, she has supported the Colusa County Free Library Literacy Program in the creation of a digital literacy program, U.S. citizenship seminars, an adult learner book and conversation clubs, and the recruitment and retention of adult tutors and learners alike. In addition, Costello was awarded a grant from the California State Library for access to the Career Online High School program. In support of developing and fostering early literacy skills and a love of reading, Costello has introduced weekly family story time to all seven branch locations, as well as provided programming in Spanish and for children with special needs, supported the expansion of the Raising a Reader program and hosted Growing Start Playgroups in our most rural outposts.

Her commitment to literacy services is a reflection of her commitment to the community at large, and her belief that literacy is an integral aspect to being a productive and happy person.

John Szabo, Los Angeles Public Library

John F. Szabo is the City Librarian of the Los Angeles Public Library, which serves over four million people—the largest population of any public library in the United States.  He oversees the Central Library, 72 branches and the library’s $182 million budget.

Under his leadership, the Library’s major initiatives include those related to immigrant integration and citizenship, improving financial literacy and providing health resources and programs.  He has expanded the library’s reach into the city’s diverse communities through partnerships with several community-based organizations.

He has more than 25 years of leadership experience in public libraries, previously serving as the director of four libraries including the Atlanta-Fulton Public Library System.

He currently serves as Chair of the Board of Trustees of OCLC and on the Board of Directors for California Humanities and the University of Southern California Center for Library Leadership and Management.  He has previously served on the Executive Board of the Urban Libraries Council and as president of the Florida Library Association.


Award Information


  • The nominee can be a library staff member who has performed one or more of the following services in support of literacy: outreach, programming, advocacy, recruitment, public awareness, collection development, fundraising, other — you name it!
  • The nominee cannot be a literacy services staff person who already provides direct literacy services.
  • Persons nominated for the award are required to be CLA members.
  • Nominators are not required to be CLA members. However, if a nomination is made by a non-member, the nomination must be endorsed by a CLA member. If you need assistance in finding a CLA member to endorse your nomination, please contact the CLA office no later than two weeks prior to the deadline.
  • Only one nomination per library jurisdiction is permitted.
  • The OLSL Award is an individual award and a nomination may not be made for a group.

How to nominate
Nominators should submit the following to CLA:

  • A brief description of what the nominee has done to demonstrate passion, excellence, and dedication on behalf of literacy. (Not to exceed 300 words.)
  • Information about the nominee’s library background and what the nominee’s outstanding qualities are. E.g., how long has s/he worked in libraries and what has been the nature of that work? (Not to exceed 150 words.)
  • Anything else the committee should know about the nominee. (Not to exceed 150 words.)

Further information

  • CLA’s Outstanding Librarian in Support of Literacy Award is coordinated by CLA’s Literacy Interest Group.
  • The Literacy Interest Group reserves the right not to give an award if a qualified candidate is not found.
  • Award recipients will be asked to submit a photograph to be used in award publicity.
  • Nominations and all supplementary materials must be received by 5:00pm on the submission deadline. Postmarks will not be accepted.