Graña one of ten recipients of I Love My Librarian Award

Posted on February 12, 2024

Gabriel Grana delivers a speech after receiving his ALA honor

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Out of nearly 1,400 nominees, Gabriel Graña, a 2015 graduate of the University of North Carolina Greensboro’s Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) program, was selected as one of 10 recipients of the I Love My Librarian Award from the American Library Association (ALA). 

Honorees are exceptional librarians from academic, public, and school libraries who were nominated by patrons nationwide for their expertise, dedication and profound impact on the people in their communities. Recipients received a $5,000 cash prize along with complimentary registration and a $750 travel stipend to attend ALA’s LibLearnX event in Baltimore. 

“I am – and will likely continue to be – in a state of awe,” said Graña of earning this honor. “(This award) means my community recognizes the work I’m doing. So often, librarians fly solo and rarely get to be recognized for their work, so it’s a great honor that students, community members, and teachers took the time to nominate me.” 

Graña is currently employed as the librarian at R.D. and Euzelle Smith Middle School in Chapel Hill. He sees his role as not only a librarian, but as a collaborator with both students and faculty members. He enjoys brainstorming sessions with teachers that can lead to an active plan. Graña listens to student feedback on things they would like to see in the library. 

He says, “An example includes a 3D printing lesson I collaborated with a math teacher on. I love when students have ideas for programming and displays and we see them through. For instance, I have a year-round LGBTQIA+ display that is maintained by students; its significance is reinforced by LGBTQIA+ students regularly telling me how much they feel seen in the library.” 

Recipients of the ALA's I Love My Librarian Award
Recipients of the I Love My Librarian Award gather following the ALA’s awards ceremony.

In a recent professional development session, Graña was asked to write a statement about what he does. That statement reads, “Librarians actively engage and collaborate with our community by connecting people, ideas, and resources in spaces where students can feel safe being themselves, seeing themselves, and learning about the world to fulfill their potential.” 

The impact that Graña has had on his students is reflected in his nomination not only for this honor, but he was also nominated by his students, and was recognized as, a Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools CHAMPion (Celebrating Heroes and Magnificent People). 

When Graña looks at his career he is proud of “my unflagging support for LGBTQIA+ students in ways that extend beyond books, from leading PD on the GS spectrum, to being a sounding board for perceived discrimination, to providing an inviting space. I’m also really proud that I feel like a valuable member of the North Carolina librarian community. At conferences I’m recognized by my peers and seen as a trusted source of information. I’m currently beginning work to revamp the NC Impact Standards, which feels like a significant contribution to the field.” 

Graña will use this award to continue his advocacy for strong school library programs and the importance they can play not only within the school, but within the greater community. He says, “There’s so much left to do. I want the library at my school to be seen as indispensable in the community. I want to bring the library out to the community. I want to continue to discover what brings each student joy and find ways to nourish those passions in the library.” 

Graña’s time at UNCG was impactful on his future. By attending conferences and being required to network with other professionals, Graña was forced out of his comfort zone, but built skills that now come easy to him. 

In the classroom, he says that the “classes were the perfect blend of theory and application. Insight and feedback came quickly, regularly, and in a way that never felt punitive. In short, professors always treated us like peers.” 

Graña says that choosing to attend UNCG was the most important academic decision he ever made. While UNCG was his top choice, being able to take advantage of the ACE Scholars grant-funded program to recruit students from under-served communities sealed his decision. Through the program he was able to learn about librarianship at community colleges while also preparing for school librarianship. 

Looking back, Graña admits that the faculty was the most memorable part of his experience at UNCG and he fully encourages students considering pursuing their MLIS degree to enroll in the program.  

He says, “The flexibility of the program – offering online and in-person options – makes for the perfect fit whether you’re fresh out of undergrad or, like me, a working professional returning to earn a new degree. I can’t emphasize enough how much the school cares about its students. I could count on any professor to counsel me in moments where I felt overwhelmed, while also challenging and genuinely applauding me in equal measure. I felt like I earned every grade and emerged a better educator because of it.”