2023 Emerson Greenaway Award Recipient

Janet McKenney

NELA is pleased to announce Janet McKenney as the 2023 Emerson Greenaway Award Recipient.

Janet McKenney is an exceptional librarian whose career has been dedicated to the advancement of library services in her adopted state of Maine, and, through her outstanding leadership and numerous collaborations, across New England and the country. An early adopter of technology, she possessed the vision and the drive to improve library services in Maine by bringing technology, connectivity and related support to libraries statewide, understanding that a robust internet connection could make a big difference for library services in isolated communities. Throughout her career, she worked tirelessly to support librarians and library staff in their adoption of technology and digital services and build a robust network for libraries. While her expertise was clearly that of a technologist, she approached it as a humanitarian, never forgetting that first and foremost technology serves people and that all people deserve to have access to current technology, reliable high speed Internet, and the skills to use both effectively.

Janet served as the Director of Library Development for the Maine State Library for 16 years before her retirement in July 2022. In this position, she oversaw a variety of programs that made libraries stronger, such as the Maine Regional Library System, consultant and continuing education services for libraries, BTOP and eRate support, and Maine Infonet (statewide catalogs, digital resources, online systems). Prior to her work at the state library, she worked for ten years at the University of Southern Maine, developing and coordinating an innovative program that provided technology and support for schools and libraries, including serving as a Circuit Rider for the Maine School and Library Program to assist institutions that lacked the expertise to resolve local technology issues.

In addition to her work serving Maine libraries, she also played an active role nationally, as an advocate for the inclusion of libraries in federal programs to expand connectivity and access to the internet, and as an engaged member of the American Library Association, serving as a Director at Large for the Association of Specialized and Cooperative Library Agencies (ASCLA) and an active participant in ALA’s State eRate Coordinators cohort. She was also active in the Council of State Libraries in the Northeast (COSLINE) Library Development Forum and helped create the Library Development Directors group for the Chief Officers of State Library Agencies (COSLA). Her accomplishments are too numerous to list, but following is a sample of programs and projects she initiated, led, or participated in that advanced library service in Maine, New England, and the nation:

  • Continuing Education Connector Project (2014). Funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the project focused on expanding collaboration, development and delivery of CE programs among state library agencies to coordinate CE initiatives regionally and nationally. Project Team, created regional cohort with staff from New England’s state library agencies.
  • Empowering Public Libraries to Become Science Resources – STEM National Leadership Grant (2015). Institute of Museum and Library Services grant to build and sustain informal science programming and services at public libraries. Maine State Library led the grant, with partners in Vermont and Rhode Island. Project Lead.
  • Propagating Promising Practices for Literacy and Workforce Development at Libraries (2018- 2021). Institute of Museum and Library Services grant to Providence Public Library (in partnership with Chicago and Los Angeles Public Libraries) to grow innovative education and workforce development practices in public libraries. Project Advisor, in collaboration with RI Office of Library & Information Services and the American Library Association.
  • Maine School and Library Network eRate (2006-2009). Coordinated application to provide federal funding to sustain no cost internet connectivity for over 700 schools and libraries in Maine. Expertise from this experience led her to become a powerful voice for simplification of the eRate program, working with the ALA’s Public Policy and Advocacy Office. Project Director.
  • MaintainIT Project at Tech Soup (2006-2007). Project funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Steering Committee Member.
  • Maine Public Library Information Commons Project (2010-2013). $1.36 million Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) grant brought new computers to over 100 public libraries, increasing available workstations by 60% (adding 500 computers). Also deployed 11 video conferencing regional hubs and 3 mobile computer labs to bring hands-on training to remote rural locations, with a focus on improving employment related services and make legal services more accessible to the public. Project Director.
  • American Rescue Plan Act (2021-2022). $2.2 million federal stimulus grant to Maine State Library to support COVID response and recovery at libraries: $615,000 in subgrants to libraries, support for Maine Infonet and online resources, van delivery services, and Bendable Maine (community centered lifelong learning system enabling participants to acquire new knowledge and skills through online courses and in-person learning opportunities). Project Director.

Janet’s work has substantially impacted library services throughout the state of Maine, bringing technology, connectivity, online resources, and learning resources to Maine residents through their libraries and the internet. Her national activities have allowed her to share the expertise she accumulated, especially in serving rural libraries, and helped shaped policy on federal funding for connectivity and technology for libraries to the benefit of libraries across the nation. Her participation in national projects enabled her to bring best practices and new projects back to Maine to advance library services and the skills of librarians.

Janet was unfailingly generous with her knowledge, bringing together state library agency colleagues from the New England states to work together on continuing education and STEM projects for the benefit of their state’s libraries. She served as a mentor to library development directors in New England and around the country, always available to answer questions or guide colleagues through complicated federal reports. She was a catalyst for learning for Maine librarians and for librarians in other states, always approachable, ever humble, and ready to dispense practical Maine advice to anyone who asked. For many, she was the face of the Maine State Library and Maine libraries, and through her outstanding leadership has improved and advanced library services in Maine, in New England, and across the nation.

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