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Minnesota Academic Innovators Award
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It’s not too early to start thinking about nominating the next recipient of the Minnesota Academic Innovators Award!

This award recognizes academic librarians or academic project teams who have made an outstanding recent contribution to advance the mission of an academic library in Minnesota through an innovative project, program or service. The award is sponsored by the MLA Academic & Research Libraries Division (ARLD).

The recipient of the Innovators Award is recognized and presented with a $300 award at ARLD Day.


Projects, programs, or services should demonstrate creativity, quality, and innovation within the context of an academic institution. Innovation is doing something in a new way.  Innovation can be a brand new idea or refining something that’s always been done with great results.  Innovation will be considered very broadly and is not limited to technology.


Nominees must be employed by or associated with an academic or research library, and/or organization that furthers the mission of academic libraries. Nominees and nominators do NOT need to be ARLD or ACRL members to qualify.

Nomination & Selection Process

Self nominations are accepted. The ARLD Awards committee will receive and evaluate nominations from the ARLD membership. Nominations must include:

  • Nomination form - closes April 3, 2017
  • Statement, not to exceed 500 words, highlighting the nominee’s innovation


The award recipient will be notified prior to ARLD Day at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum.

The award recipient will be recognized at ARLD Day at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum.

Announcements will also be sent to the ALA Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL) Chapter TopicsNewsletter and will be posted on the MLA website and through other internal and external communication.

Past Recipients

2016 Kaia Sievert, Becky Adamski, Amber Fick, and Danika Stegeman, the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities (UMTC) “From Our Collections Group,” received the 2016 Academic Innovators Award. The “From Our Collections Group” encourages leisure reading for students, faculty and staff at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. They have created book displays highlighting popular fiction available, organized a summer reading program, and designed a book matchmaking service to correspond with their “Blind Date with a Book” display. The group has also organized a number of “pop-up libraries” at various campus locations including the Recreation Center and the campus farmers market. Phil Dudas, UMTC Information Services Manager, wrote in his nomination that the group members “come to work each day with an eager passion to learn” and that their work “has energized many staff and reminded them of the value of continuing to explore and push the boundaries of our role in our community.”
2015 Virginia Connell, Kevin Baggett, Theresa Borchert, Connie Jones, Solveig Lund, Lisa Sjoberg and Wendy Spiesman, the Concordia College (Moorhead, MN) Library Launch Team received the 2015 Academic Innovators Award. The group works with first year students as part of the college’s First Year Experience curriculum. Starting in fall 2014, the group reimagined the program to incorporate the use of cell phones and social media as well as online class activities, eliminating the need for paper worksheets. Early results show that the students are asking more questions, completing more assignments and generally having more fun with the work. Laura Probst, Director of the Carl B. Ylvisaker Library at Concordia College, wrote in her nomination that the success of the program is due to the librarians, who form strong relationships with the faculty and students and who strive to make the program interesting and engaging for the students.
2014 Jayne Blodgett, Assistant Library Director at the University of Minnesota – Morris, received the 2014 Academic Innovators Award. At Morris, she has been the driving force for innovation in multiple areas of the library services. She developed an embedded librarian program with courses in multiple disciplines and partnered with faculty in flipping a course. She has been key to expanding digital initiatives, including collaboration on digitizing the archival images and lobbying for an institutional repository. She also partnered with faculty and students to create the Prairie Gate Literary Festival which has become a significant event for Morris as well as the surrounding area.

Shane Nackerud, technology lead for the eLearning Support Initiative at the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities, received the 2013 Academic Innovators Award for his work on two library assessment projects. The first project applied affinity strings to user behavior, essentially tracking who used library resources and mapping that use to a relatively broad user designation. It provided a mechanism by which the libraries could make resource recommendations back to the peer groups represented by the affinity strings. The second project, Library Data and Student Success, was a nationally known effort that successfully ties library usage data to student success measures; namely GPA and retention. This groundbreaking study demonstrated statistically significant relationships between library use and higher GPAs and better student retention. For more information on this project, see two articles by the project team in the April 2013 issue of the journal portal: Libraries and the Academy.

2012 Julie Gilbert, Gustavus Adolphus College assistant professor and academic librarian, received the 2012 Academic Innovators Award. Gilbert, in collaboration with political science faculty, developed a weekly library-based lab to the department’s research methods course. Gilbert captured data on student learning to demonstrate that the lab experience significantly improves student learning. Gilbert has created a successful model for any college or university interested in promoting information literacy. 
2011 Lisa R. Johnston, a research services librarian at the University of Minnesota, received the 2011 Academic Innovators Award. Her project, a campus-wide data management program that grew out of her work with the Minnesota Geological Survey and the Universal Digital Conservancy, has become a model for other universities around the country. Johnston’s data-management program for the University of Minnesota can be explored on its website,
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