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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. A nominee may not be a current officer of ARLD. Nominees and nominators do NOT need to be ARLD or ACRL members to qualify.

Nomination & Selection Process

Nominations can be made online through April 13, 2020.

Self nominations are accepted. The ARLD Awards committee will receive and evaluate nominations.


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

 2020 Adam Konczewski, Kelly Kraemer, Ethan Wittrock, Sarah Gewirtz are the  2020 Minnesota Academic Innovators Awardees. The Minnesota Academic Innovator’s Award is an annual award that 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. This year, ARLD is recognizing the outstanding work by Kelly Kraemer, Adam Konczewski, Ethan Wittrock, and Sarah Gewirtz, the four-person Learning Sequences team at College of Saint Benedict/Saint John’s University Libraries and their Instructional Technology unit. These four developed a series of “Learning Sequences” documents that help guide collaborations between the two units and classroom instructors. When we were reading their nomination letter, we were excited to learn about how they are integrating information literacy into different courses with these documents, and we believe these are a valuable contribution to the academic library community in Minnesota and provide a model for other librarians to engage students with information literacy through technology.  The Learning Sequences documents for the various technology classes are publically available on their Instructional Design website.Kelly Kraemer, Business Librarian and Adam Konczewski, Instructional Technology Specialist; both at the College of Saint Benedict & Saint John’s University, accepted the 2020 Minnesota Academic Innovators Award at the ARLD Day Virtual Keynote on May 1, 2020 on behalf of the Learning Sequences Team.The award is sponsored by the Academic & Research Libraries Division (ARLD) of the Minnesota Library Association. ARLD is a division of the Minnesota Library Association and is also the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) chapter in Minnesota. ARLD’s purpose is to identify and seek solutions to mutual problems on the academic and research library level of librarianship, to improve services, to encourage development of librarians, and to stimulate cooperation among libraries.
2019 Kirsten Delegard, Ryan Mattke, Kevin Ehrman-Solberg and Penny Peterson from the University of Minnesota are the recipients of the 2019 Minnesota Academic Innovators Award. Since 2016 the Mapping Prejudice project, based in the Borchert Map Library at the University of Minnesota, has worked to create the first-ever comprehensive visualization of racial covenants for an American city. That city, Minneapolis, is acknowledged as having some of the largest racial disparities in the nation, a fact reinforced by residential segregation and racial gaps in home ownership. Starting with digitized Hennepin County property deeds, the project employs optical character recognition to identify specific phrases and terms used to racially restrict specific groups from owning, leasing, or renting the referenced property. The project then turns to humans to examine the tagged documents and answer a series of questions aimed at identifying the geographic location and specific language use in the covenant. The Mapping Prejudice founding team of Kirsten Delegard, Ryan Mattke, Kevin Ehrman-Solberg, and Penny Petersen, along with University of Minnesota undergraduate and graduate students, have produced a creative, although sobering, example of an innovative program that sheds new light on the history of a city believing itself to be outside historical contexts of segregation. They are providing the data objectively, letting it speak through the lens of an interactive map where the information tagged in the process described above shows the spread of covenants throughout the most affluent Minneapolis neighborhoods. They are also providing knowledge to government agencies and lawmakers to support acknowledgement of past discrimination and implement change to help reverse the racial disparities still seen every day in Minneapolis.

Daniel Gullo, Eileen Smith, and David Calabro from the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library received the 2018 Academic Innovators Award. Since August 2016, Gullo, Smith, and Calabro have developed a method to establish new authorities for underrepresented communities not commonly found in Library of Congress and VIAF authority files including authorities for authors and titles from early modern and medieval Eastern Christian and Islamic writers, especially those from Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Mali, Turkey, India, Malta and the Western Mediterranean where HMML continues to digitize previously uncatalogued manuscript and rare book collections. To date, over 200 authors and titles have been established and are being prepared to enter the NACO funnel. The cataloging of these records is being done in conjunction with Gullo, the lead designer and program manager of vHMML Reading Room, a unique database that allows for the sharing of native script and traditional metadata, along with the digitized images of the manuscripts and rare books. During 2018, the metadata and cataloging team will be developing a harvestable metadata system, where other libraries will be able to harvest metadata in RDF, MARC-21, and EAD formats.

 2017 Amy Mars, Research & Instruction Librarian, St. Catherine University, received the 2017 Academic Innovators Award. After the murder of Philando Castile, Amy — feeling the library needed to do more to help enact change on racial justice issues — started a year-long initiative, One Read for Racial Justice, to open up conversations about race on her campus. Centering on the book A Good Time for the Truth: Race in Minnesota, she partnered with many people and departments on her campus to create discussions around the book, encourage faculty to use it in their classes, design events, and bring in author speakers. Programs included in this initiative have covered topics including diversity in the publishing industry, racism in the criminal justice system, Black Lives Matter, stand your ground culture, and healing justice. Several departments across campus sponsored One Read-related events; ultimately more than 40 events were held as part of this year-long initiative. Most recently, Amy organized an on-campus panel discussion featuring six authors from A Good Time for the Truth. Speaking to a standing-room-only crowd, they received a standing ovation and accolades from the University’s President. Because of Amy’ efforts reaching out to faculty, staff, and students, this One Read permeated her campus community, showcasing the library as a strong advocate for racial justice and an active partner in educating students. Amy started an important dialogue on her campus about how faculty, staff, and students talk about race.
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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