Lance Werner, executive director of Kent District Library, has been named the top librarian in the nation by Library Journal.
The 2018 Librarian of the Year award honors a professional librarian among nominees from across the country for outstanding achievement and accomplishments reflecting the loftiest service goals of the library profession. Werner was recognized for his strong leadership, effective legislative advocacy and championing access for his over 200,000 patrons in Kent County.
Werner is the first – and only – Michigan librarian to win the Librarian of the Year award.
“My version of leadership is to get the best people I can, give them what they need and then get out of their way,” Werner said. “I’m one gear in a big machine where everyone is important.” Werner credits this philosophy as a cornerstone to building strong advocacy among his team, municipalities, strategic partners and patrons.
Under Werner’s leadership, Kent District Library:
- Championed access for all by becoming the first public library in the state to offer e-magazines, e-movies, e-comics and streaming video games free of charge.
- Extended the reach of technology by circulating iPads and wireless hotspots community-wide.
- Installed a collection of Little Free Libraries around Kent County. There are currently 14, which are housed in community centers, senior centers, parks and the Gerald R. Ford International Airport.
- Opened a branch in Kelloggsville High School, which will be a community library outside of school hours.
- Began offering healthcare for part-time employees.
- Partnered with other West Michigan libraries to collect 50,000 library materials for the Port Arthur Public Library, a Texas library devastated by Hurricane Harvey.
- Launched a statewide short story contest called Write Michigan, now in its 6th year, which most recently drew more than 900 submissions from children, teens, adults and Spanish-language writers.
- Provided books for military troops stationed in the Middle East.
- Trained all staff members in first aid and CPR.
- Launched adult program series highlighting beer (KDaLe), wine (KDL Uncorked) and coffee (KDL Caffeinated).
- Partnered with The Geek Group and other local organizations to offer innovative programming, including STEM initiatives.
“Working with Lance is exciting,” said Michelle Boisvenue-Fox, KDL’s director of innovation and user experience. “I admire that he has respect for all of our staff and genuinely wants to do the best for our patrons and communities. This shows in the relationships he has grown over the years and our efforts to grow our KDL family to include more and more community groups.”
Werner builds his life around three pillars: kindness, empathy and love.
“I don’t feel like I have a job, it’s more of a calling,” Werner explained. “I’m so blessed to do work that I love, with those that I love, for those that I love. I consider myself a public servant and want to add to the greater good and touch the lives of future generations.”
Werner has been director of Kent District Library since May 2011. He previously served as director of the Capital Area District Library in Lansing and as a library law specialist at the Library of Michigan. He earned a bachelor of arts in psychology from the University of Northern Colorado, a law degree from Michigan State University and a master’s of library information systems from Wayne State University.
“As the 30th recipient of the LJ Librarian of the Year award, Lance exemplifies the dynamism and keen intelligence we expect in a winner,” said Rebecca T. Miller, editorial director of Library Journal and School Library Journal. “His deep understanding of the importance of building and nurturing strong relationships at all levels has resulted in improved service for his community, enhanced benefits for the Kent District Library staff, and improved the outlook for libraries across Michigan. We are very excited to name him LJ’s 2018 Librarian of the Year.”
Werner will receive a $1,500 cash prize and is featured in Library Journal’s January 2018 issue, available in print and online. Werner was previously a 2016 LJ Mover & Shaker and 2017 Michigan Library Association Librarian of the Year.