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2017 James Partridge Outstanding African American Information Professional Award recipient: my sister

Guest writer Pat May is the ALA Washington Office’s Director of Administration

Last week I was honored to attend the presentation of the James Partridge Outstanding African American Information Professional Award – to my sister, Ruby Jaby.

Ruby Jaby holding award with four other supporters
Hampton “Skip” Auld, CEO Anne Arundel County (MD) Public Library;
Partridge Award recipient Ruby Jaby, Branch Manager, Crofton (MD) Community Library;
Catherine Hollerbach, Chief, Public Services and Branch Management, Anne Arundel County (MD) Public Library; Joe Thompson, Citizens for Maryland Libraries; B. Parker Hamilton, former Director of Montgomery County (MD) Public Library.

Awarded annually by the Citizens for Maryland Libraries and the University of Maryland’s College of Information Studies, the James Partidge award is given to people who “exemplify the highest ideals of the library/information profession including career-long dedicated service, leadership and a commitment to the empowerment of those whom they serve.” The James Partridge Award was created in 1998 and named for its first recipient. I was not surprised to learn that ALA’s own Satia Marshall Orange, former director of the Office for Library Outreach Services, was a 2001 recipient of this Award.

Growing up, I wouldn’t have guessed that my sister would one day be honored in this way. Ruby was always the seriously creative one of us six siblings. We all thought that she would make music a career (she played and taught piano), and I would be the librarian (I was a book addict before I even knew how to read). However, we both went in different career directions, she into librarianship and I into the Navy before joining the staff of the ALA Washington Office as an office administrator. Clearly, the library profession was the right choice for her.

Ruby has been a librarian for more than 43 years, but it was not until I read the nomination information submitted on her behalf that I realized what award-worthy career accomplishments she’d achieved. After becoming the Branch Manager of the Crofton Public Library in Maryland 25 years ago, Ruby tapped into her deep well of creative customer service ideas. Under her management, the Crofton Public Library branch has become a center for community activity and connections that cater to the needs of its youngest patrons as well as its most senior citizens. Examples of how she and her staff have creatively served their patrons over the years include:

  • Sensory Storytime for children with autism spectrum disorders and other developmental disabilities.
    a dedicated Teen Area in the library with furniture, equipment and other resources specifically catering to needs identified by a teen survey.
  • study chairs with arms for patrons who had difficulty getting out of easy chairs and more table space for the increased tutoring needs and for laptop users.
  • a welcoming lobby area that includes snack and beverage vending machines and café tables for patrons who spend long hours at the library and a bench for senior patrons to sit while waiting to be picked up.
  • wildly popular Star Wars events featuring the premier Star Wars costuming group the Old Line Garrison of the 501st Legion, and an annual Harry Potter event.
  • community partnerships that benefit the library with groups such as the Crofton Village Garden Club, the Red Cross and Boy Scouts.

Ruby has been quietly going about her duties in a profession she loves and making her library an invaluable resource to her community. In her own words, she “considers her branch more than a warehouse for books.” She sees it as “a community center for customers to come and relax and spend the whole day there in comfort and enjoyment.” By creative ideas for meeting her patrons’’ needs, Ruby is doing more than contributing to the positive image of the library profession. She and her staff are advocating for the right of all people to access information.

Needless to say, our family is very proud of Ruby’s accomplishments and very happy to see her dedication and hard work honored in this meaningful way.

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Shawnda Hines

Shawnda Hines is an assistant director of Communications at ALA's Washington Office. She earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Evangel University in Missouri. Before joining the ALA in 2016, Shawnda worked as press secretary and local media organizer for the national advocacy group Bread for the World.

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