Berthoud library staffer Elizabeth Lawrence to receive prestigious paralibrarian award

By Shelley Widhalm

The Surveyor

Avid reader Elizabeth Lawrence turned a childhood pastime into a job and now has an award for her work as part of the staff at the Berthoud Community Library District.

Courtesy photo – Elizabeth Lawrence shelves books Aug. 9 at the Berthoud Community Library District. She will be awarded the 2018 Lucy Schweers Award for Excellence in Paralibrarianship in September.

Lawrence, instructor and research specialist at the library, will be awarded the 2018 Lucy Schweers Award for Excellence in Paralibrarianship on Sept. 14 at an awards luncheon in Loveland. She is the first paralibrarian from the Berthoud library to be nominated for the award.

“It’s not the effort of one single person,” said Lawrence, who grew up in Berthoud and recently moved to Longmont. “Everything we do here, we are all team-effort oriented.”

The Lucy Schweers Award, issued annually since 1988 through the Colorado Association of Libraries (CAL), recognizes a paralibrarian, or member of a library’s support staff, who displays outstanding leadership and service to their community. The late Schweers, of Greeley, was the first paraprofessional to be elected vice-president of a statewide library association and founded the CAL Paralibrarian Division.

“It was a really nice surprise,” Lawrence said. “It means I’m on the right track. It means I’m going to continue to strive to deserve that award.”

Amie Pilla, library chief executive officer, nominated Lawrence for the award, and nine members of the library board, staff, and community submitted letters of recommendation.

“Elizabeth is incredibly smart and incredibly caring, and both of those come through every day when she is on the job,” Pilla said. “She has a lot of passion for this community, for promoting it, for helping people find what they need, so they can live a really good life in Berthoud.”

Lawrence, who was homeschooled and graduated in 2007, began working at the Berthoud library when she was 16 years old to earn business work experience credits toward her high school diploma.

“I applied because I love libraries,” Lawrence said. “I’m a big fan of books. … You can experience alternate realities through books.”

Lawrence, who has worked for the library for 13 years, began as a library assistant, and for the past 1 ½ years served as an instructor and research specialist.

In both of her roles Lawrence does several tasks, including working at the front desk to check items in and out, manage the library’s social media presence, create marketing materials, and handle outgoing interlibrary loans through the Colorado Library Consortium of 104 libraries.

“First and foremost it’s a customer-service role, providing the best customer experience for customers who come into the library,” Lawrence said. “We’re about educating. We’re about enriching people’s lives. We’re about providing services people otherwise wouldn’t get. The entire library here, everybody has a heart for the community, and that’s so important to me.”

Lawrence provides basic tech-support services for the library’s computers and technology consulting to help customers with their electronic devices, such as e-readers, cell phones and laptops. She also helps the consortium test new products and services, such as new website designs and marketing strategies.

As a research specialist Lawrence provides basic research services. She assists customers with research, finds answers to their questions, and points them in the right direction.

“It refers to providing answers to what people need regardless of what the question might be,” Lawrence said.

Lawrence likes working at a smaller library — there is a staff of eight with an annual circulation of 60,000 — to be able to work with customers at a more personal level.

“It’s about personal connection. That’s why we do customer service so well here,” Lawrence said. “We all want to go the extra mile to make a person smile when they leave the building. … I love the people I work with and I love the people I work for.”

Lawrence also loves continuing to learn on the job, attending classes and workshops through the library consortium.

“She does a lot of work beyond her job description that benefits both this community and other libraries throughout the state,” Pilla said. “She’s able to treat (customers) as individuals even though we have a lot of people coming through the library.”

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