Courtney Young '97LS and Vicky Smith '03GS Honored at SLIS After Dark
Spirits were buoyant as attendees from across generations and time zones wound up the staircase at Legal Harborside on Saturday, January 9, for SLIS After Dark, the annual Simmons SLIS alumni reception. This year's event coincided with ALA's Midwinter Meeting, held at The Boston Convention and Exhibition Center in the Seaport District, affording Simmons the opportunity to welcome back many alumni in town for the conference.
Old friends and colleagues gathered to reconnect, catch up, and celebrate two of their own, Courtney Young ’97LS and Vicky Smith ’03GS, recipients of the 2016 SLIS Alumni Achievement Awards. These awards are presented to graduates who have demonstrated significant achievement in their professions and have exceeded the boundaries of their current positions, achieving influence as outstanding role models in their professions. The award has been given annually to a library and information science graduate since 1970, though2016 marked the inaugural alumni achievement award for a children’s literature alum.
Once the crowd had a chance to mingle, Dean Eileen Abels took the stage to comment on Simmons’ great year, and thank alumni for their many contributions to the field and the School. Next, Professor Amy Pattee, director of the MS program, presented Courtney Young the 2016 Simmons Alumni Achievement Award for Outstanding Achievement and Excellence in Library and Information Professional Endeavors.
Since graduating in 1997, Young has repeatedly been recognized for her accomplishments. In 2011, she was selected as a Library Journal “Mover & Shaker” for her efforts to serve as a change agent and bring issues of diversity in libraries and academia to the forefront. She has been consistently active in leadership roles in the American Library Association where she was a member of several boards and roundtables, including the New Members Roundtable, ALA Table Taskforce on Electronic Member Participation and the ALA Executive Board. In 2014 Young was inaugurated as President of ALA. During her tenure she focused on equity, diversity and inclusion. She also supported the new Career Development & Recruitment program launched by ALA’s Office for Human Development and Recruitment, and strengthened ALA’s social media presence. Young is currently the Head Librarian and Professor of Women’s Studies at Pennsylvania State University Greater Allegheny campus.
Professor Cathie Mercier, Director of the Children’s Literature graduate programs and the Center for the Study of Children’s Literature—now part of the School of Library & Information Science--presented the Alumni Achievement Award to Vicky Smith, who completed her Master of Arts in Children’s Literature in 2003. Smith has been an important voice in the world of children’s literature, working on multiple award committees, including the Newbery, Caldecott, and Sibert. At Kirkus Reviews she applies expertise as the children’s and teen editor, reviewing new literature. Smith has, in turn, honored her Simmons experience by hiring graduates as Kirkus reviewers, teaching the Children’s Book Publishing course at the children’s literature off-site program at The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, and presenting at Simmons’ Summer Institutes. Smith has extended the name and reputation of Simmons within ALA, the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), and the world of children’s books.
Upon accepting their awards, Young and Smith each remarked on how surprised they were to learn of the honor: both initially thought the notification email was invitating them to serve on an award committee rather than being honored themselves. Both recipients thanked Simmons for the recognition. Young commented on her studies saying, "[A]ll of my courses prepared me for the unforeseen changes facing our profession in the twenty-first century. I am excited to see the curriculum continue to prepare my future colleagues for the great work ahead.” She further acknowledged Simmons’ role in her successes, stating, “I would not have been able to do the things I have in this profession—including serving as ALA President—had I not come to Simmons. By recognizing my accomplishments with this award, you are telling the profession you are proud of what I have done, and that means so much to me professionally and personally." Smith expressed similar gratitude and surprise, knowing “very well the distinguished achievements of so many of my fellow graduates... being selected as the first recipient of this award is a stunning, humbling honor. I haven't gotten over it yet."
Alumni Board member Frances Harrell was also singled out for her dedication to Simmons SLIS and the alumni board. It was a wonderful night of celebration and reconnection for the SLIS community.