Montana Library Association creates new award named in honor of Alma Smith Jacobs
GREAT FALLS – The Great Falls Public Library and the Montana Library Association have established a new annual award – the Alma Smith Jacobs Award for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion – to honor libraries’ efforts in the area of equity, diversity and inclusion.
Originally from Montana, Smith Jacobs worked as the chief librarian of the Great Falls Public Library for more than two decades before becoming Montana’s state librarian in 1973 – two historic firsts, as she was the first black woman to serve one or the other position.
the library website contains more information about Jacobs’ impact and the history of the library, including this overview:
In 1954, after working as a catalog librarian for 8 years, Alma Jacobs was appointed chief librarian of the Great Falls Public Library. At a time when the city was strictly segregated, Jacobs, an African American, became one of the most respected women in the city through her tireless and determined work for the library. A longtime friend of Jacobs, Dorothy Bohn said, “It’s because of her that people have mellowed here in Great Falls.” Jacob’s primary concern was library service to the community and downplayed the subject of his race, stating, “I hate to be thought of as a black librarian. I prefer to focus on being a good librarian”. Alma Jacobs would lead the Great Falls Public Library until 1973, when she resigned to lead the Montana State Library in Helena.
A press release from the library reads, “A passionate advocate for libraries, education, community and social justice, it is in this spirit that the Alma Smith Jacobs Prize for Equity and Inclusion in diversity rewards those who follow Alma’s inspiring example. Each year, this award will recognize a library, individual, or group whose efforts have produced outstanding positive effects in improving equity, diversity, and inclusion in library services for Montana.”
Nominations can be made by any library board, individual library, librarian, trustee, member of the MLA, or the Montana State Library Commission. The prize must be based on, but not limited to, activities or achievements such as the following:
- Actions that have promoted a library environment that welcomes, supports and nurtures cultural, ethnic, racial, class, gender, sexual orientation, language and other human differences.
- Actions and dialogue that showcase unity and strength in diversity.
- Creating and developing community programs and services that celebrate diversity, promote empowerment, and improve access to quality library services for disadvantaged and underserved groups.
- Actions that have helped raise awareness of diversity and inclusion in the context of library services and the broader Montana library community.
Recipients will be chosen from nominations submitted to the Montana Library Association Awards Committee by March 1, 2022.
The first winner will be announced at the Montana Library Association’s annual conference in Missoula (August 3-6, 2022).