Jen Lemberger Awarded RUSA Award for Excellence in Reference and Adult Library Services


Jen Lemberger, MLIS, MPH, Programming Librarian, City of Santa Barbara Library was selected as the 2020 winner of the Award for Excellence in Reference and Adult Library Services, sponsored by ReferenceUSA, for her enthusiastic service and dedication to the community of Santa Barbara, CA and for building community relationships.

As a Programming Librarian for the Santa Barbara Public Library, Jen Lemberger supports events and programs ranging from small discussion groups and book clubs to large community events such as Juneteenth. No matter what the program, Jen looks to help educate and empower the Santa Barbara community with information resources.

As a member of the Adult Services team, Jen leads several recurring programs that respond to the unique needs and interests of the greater Santa Barbara community, providing in person learning opportunities, as well as connection to library resources that deepen and extend this learning. The programming also supports community engagement by building connections with partner organizations, as well as between individuals.

As part of regular monthly adult program development, Jen, with the support of Library Technician Anne-Marie Snider, curates recommended reading lists for six ongoing programs, as well as additional one-time and special events. Each recommendation list is tailored to the program, and topics have included the artist Alfredo Ramos Martínez (in partnership with the Santa Barbara Museum of Art), Backyard Composting (with the UC Master Gardeners), and author Ady Barkan on Healthcare, Disability, and Social Justice. Each list includes materials for different ages, in a variety of formats and genres. With each list including precisely where in the collection to find the item, as well as online versions with direct links, patrons are directed to parts of the collection they might not otherwise be accessing on their own. Working with partners on these events also helps in collection development, as recommendations of materials from partners (who are experts in their fields) increases the strength of what is available to patrons.

Additionally, four of the six monthly adult programs are livestreamed for viewing outside of the library itself. The livestreams, along with archival access to the videos, provides the ability to view the informational programs when convenient for community members and without having to come into the library if that is not an option, thus enhancing user services.

Through the types, formats, and variety of programming offered to the community, Santa Barbara Public Library demonstrates how programming, reference and user services can complement one another to support education in the community.

Jen Lemberger has been a Programming Librarian with the Santa Barbara Public Library since 2017 and is a professional member of the American Library Association, American Public Health Association, and the Public Library Association. As a Programming Librarian she leads a variety of events from outdoor focused (Getting Dirty @ SBPL, Trail Talks) to civics focused (Civic Forums, Social Justice Book Club) and helps connect the library with social services (Vets Connect @ the Library). She is interested in program development and library services related to social justice, equity and access in information provision, community resources, and underlying social issues that affect access to healthcare and education. In 2019, she had a piece titled “We’re a Library, It’s What We Do” published in Digital Commons (, about Santa Barbara Public Library’s disaster response and experience during and after the Thomas Fire and the Montecito debris flows.

Established in 1990, the RUSA Award for Excellence in Reference and Adult Library Services, sponsored by ReferenceUSA is a citation and $1,500* monetary award presented to a library or library system for developing an imaginative and unique resource to meet patrons’ reference needs.

The selection committee includes: Suzanne Odom (Chair), Kelly S. Janousek, Jackie Parker and Josephine Tucci.

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