Readers in Bayside are getting the best of the best, according to the New York Times, which just named their librarian, Eve Hammer, Librarian of the Year.
“Its a wonderful honor and I’m very pleased with it,” Hammer said.
The contest is held each year to recognize the accomplishments of librarians across the city and the country. Nominations are made by people in the community and the librarians are assessed by a panel of their peers who determine the winners in each of the three New York library systems.
The contest, now in its fifth year, was designed to support and recognize librarians because they nurture literacy and an informed society. The award is given to librarians who exemplify professionalism, knowledge and public service.
Nominations for the award are gathered between June and September and winners are announced in mid-November. Over 1,200 nominations were received this year, and Hammer rose to the top of the pile.
She is pleased with the award but remains humble. Hammer is quick to point out that while being recognized is an honor, it isn’t what motivates her and her colleagues. “We do it because that’s what we love to do and that’s what we are trained to do.”
Hammer, a Flushing native who now resides in Forest Hills, is the manager of the Bay Terrace Library. She is a graduate of Queens College and joined the Queens Library system in 1988. She worked in the Bay Terrace branch from 1991 to 2001 and returned again (after a stint in the nearby Windsor Park branch) in June 2004.
“I like giving people personal attention,” Hammer said after winning the award. “Service is so important…it’s what librarians are trained to do. The library is one of the few places in the world where you can still get personal attention for free.”
A ceremony was held on November 16th to honor Hammer and the other 26 recipients of this year’s awards. Alice Hoffman, whose latest novel appropriately features a librarian, spoke at the ceremony. Award winners received plaques and checks for $2,500 each.
Hammer said it was inspiring to meet and talk with librarians from across the country. She found one thing they all had in common was their commitment to serving people.
One person particularly influenced by Hammer’s policy of personal attention is Florence Teviovitz, the woman who made the nomination.
Teviovitz is an avid reader who is mostly homebound. She was impressed by Hammer upon their very first meeting. “She saw me immediately and insisted I be seated near her desk…and tell her about the kinds of books I enjoyed reading,” she wrote in her nominating letter.
Teviovitz, who suffers from chronic spinal stenosis, credits Hammer for making her library experience a “pure pleasure” and enhancing her life. “As an elderly lady of 82, and very much housebound, reading is one of my greatest pleasures, and I have Ms. Eve Hammer to thank for this. She is very responsible for improving the quality of my life and I am sure the lives of many more avid readers who are handicapped like myself.”
Hammer says she sees Teviovitz every few weeks. She has learned her preferences by now and is constantly thinking of new book suggestions. “Its a pleasure to serve her,” Hammer said.
Hammer is not the first Queens librarian to receive this honor. Previous winners have hailed from Howard Beach and other branches within the 62 community libraries in the Queens system.
Distinct from the New York Public Library system, Queens Library was founded over 100 years ago and is renowned for its high circulation and the diverse population it serves.
With 18.9 million items, the Queens Library can claim among the highest circulation of any in the nation and the world. It runs neck-in-neck with a Seattle-area library for the top slot.