RIFLE — Amelia Shelley isn’t the kind of executive director to sit in an office all the time doing managerial stuff, not with a world of information outside her door that she’s eager to help share with patrons of all ages who visit the Garfield County libraries.
“Amelia is a highly effective administrator — tough, intelligent, always ready for a new challenge, and downright likable,” wrote Garfield County Public Library District board president Nella Barker and vice president Marilee Rippy in a letter nominating Shelley for the Colorado Association of Libraries (CAL) “Librarian of the Year” award.
“Though unassuming in her manner, Amelia commands attention with her insight, tenacity and leadership, but also with her willingness to don a librarian hat at any moment, play-acting with children, recommending books to patrons, or navigating the library’s virtual world with users,” they wrote.
Shelley, who has been at the helm of the Garfield County Library system for the past six years, was recently selected by the state library awards committee as this year’s Librarian of the Year. She will be honored along with the recipients of nine other awards at the CAL’s annual conference Oct. 18 in Loveland.
“It was completely unexpected, and just a great honor to be recognized by not only the people I work with but library professionals from throughout the state,” Shelley said.
“For me, though, it’s always more about the whole team here and how we all work hard to make this a great library system,” she said.
Last year, Shelley nominated Parachute Branch Librarian Carol Sacca for the same award.
“It’s important to recognize others, and to share with everyone the good work others are doing,” Shelley said.
Shelley joined the Garfield County Library system just after county voters elected in 2006 to form a self-governing, sales-tax-supported library district separate from the county government. Also approved by voters was a 25-year, 1 mill property tax levy to build new library facilities from Parachute to Carbondale.
In that time, major renovations were made at the Parachute and New Castle branch libraries, and completely new libraries have been built in Rifle, Silt, Glenwood Springs and Carbondale.
The new Carbondale Branch Library opened last month, and the “Cooper Commons” building at Eighth and Cooper in Glenwood Springs, which contains the new Glenwood Branch Library and expanded Colorado Mountain College facilities, is slated for its grand opening on Sept. 14.
“But the district needed more than a $32 million bricks-and-mortar overhaul,” Barker and Rippy wrote in their nominating letter. “It needed a complete management restructuring as well. Amelia unflinchingly took on the daunting task of rebuilding the library district both physically and culturally.”
Shelley’s nominators also acknowledged her for reaching out to library patrons and nonpatrons alike, as well as town government leaders in each of the communities to make sure their branch libraries were a reflection of each unique community.
“She helped everyone in Garfield County… envision tomorrow’s library; highly efficient and aesthetically pleasing community hubs where one can go to attend community events, find resources and access technology,” the nominating letter states.
Other letters of support for Shelley’s nomination came from the district’s branch library managers, Rifle City Manager Matt Sturgeon and Bucky Moser, who chairs the Garfield County Library Foundation board.
In addition to serving as executive director of the library district, Shelley is also on the library foundation board, and is on the boards for the Raising a Reader and Literacy Outreach programs in the area.
The CAL awards committee selects recipients for 10 different awards each year, said current awards committee chairwoman Currie Meyer, who is a branch manager with the Poudre River Public Library District in Fort Collins.
Other honors include the Colorado Library of the Year, the Library Advocate Award, the Unsung Hero Award, the Library Community Partnership Award, the Library Project of the Year, Outstanding Volunteer, Career Achievement Award and, new this year, the Outstanding Library Trustee Award.
“It’s not an easy task to choose the winners of these awards,” Meyer said of the five-person awards committee’s job. “Every year we received such amazing stories about people working in our state’s libraries, and it’s always inspiring.”