On December 22, 2015, ALAO lost a long-term friend, mentor, and leader. Kathryn Venditti was an Instruction and Reference Librarian at Ashland University, and had been a member of ALAO for over 15 years. She served various formal leadership roles over the last decade, including several conference planning committees and many years as the Interest Group (IG) Coordinator. During her tenure as the IG Coordinator, she established the processes used by the IG Chairs and Board to this day. The IG Handbook she created is the guiding light for the IGs to be successful. Kathryn’s enthusiasm and efforts to support ALAO and academic libraries were honored in 2014 when she received the Jay Ladd Award, the highest honor that ALAO can bestow on a member.
The conversations since her passing have demonstrated how much she has meant for so many members of ALAO. I lost count of how many members have told me the first person they met in ALAO and consider their first ALAO “friend” was Kathryn. She was the smiling face that greeted so many of us at our first ALAO Conference or workshop. She was the unofficial “ambassador” in everything she did from welcoming new members to providing a positive experience for everyone. The Board reflected on Kathryn’s years within ALAO. As we went around the room, the common theme was stories of joy from times spent with Kathryn. Almost everyone in the room described the “mentoring” she provided as each person was considering or accepting an ALAO leadership role. She had a calming approach as she prepared you to tackle your new challenges. Her enthusiasm was contagious and clearly led to many considering running for election or volunteering for roles within ALAO. I myself can say I participated in several conference planning committees and her personality set the tone for everything we did.
At the recent ALAO Conference, it was with great honor that I had the task of introducing a brand new ALAO award that will recognize an outstanding mentor. In the future, information will be available at the ALAO website.
The Kathryn L. Venditti Mentoring Award was established in 2016 in memory of longtime ALAO member Kathryn Venditti. Kathryn was an outstanding academic librarian at Ashland University from 1999-2015. A former ALAO Jay Ladd Distinguished Service Award winner, she was an active leader in the field and a loyal colleague. In particular, Kathryn is remembered for her supportive mentorship to many emerging librarians. The ALAO Executive Board voted to establish this award in her name to honor her generous spirit, exhibited through her lifelong mentoring of new and experienced librarians.
- The Kathryn L. Venditti Mentoring Award is given annually to an academic librarian who has demonstrated excellence as a mentor to a librarian, library worker, or library science student. Through this award, ALAO strives to foster a culture of mentoring within the Association.
- Nominees will have a sustained record of effective mentorship, as demonstrated by activities that may include but not be limited to advising, developing, coaching, sponsoring, advocating, guiding, and/or supporting librarians, library workers, or library students.
- Preference is given to nominees who work in academic libraries. Nominees need not be members of ALAO.
- In the future, the Awards Committee will solicit nominations in spring and select the winner. Presentation of the award will occur at the Annual Conference in the fall. Nominations should include a single page describing the nominee’s record of mentorship. The Award does not have to be presented each year.
The 2016 award was given to Kathryn Venditti. It was accepted on behalf of her family by Kathryn’s son Gabriel. At the end of Gabriel’s acceptance speech, he issued this challenge to all of us: “So as I accept this award for her in her absence, I have a request for all of you. Embrace your capacity for good. Use the gifts you’ve been given to leave a mark on the lives that connect with yours. And also, reach out to others who have these gifts as well, and teach them how to use them.”
Brian C. Gray, Past President, Case Western Reserve University