There is a top honor for a staffer at the library on Baxter Street in Athens: the Athens-Clarke County Library System’s Rebecca Ballard has been named the Georgia Library Employee of the Year for 2022.
From the Athens-Clarke Co Library…
Rebecca Ballard, regional Children’s Services coordinator at Athens Regional Library System, has been named 2022 Georgia Public Library Employee of the Year for her efforts to bring joy to the library for all ages.
“Miss Rebecca - as she’s known to our patrons - is such an asset to our library! With her creativity, talent, knowledge and skills, she is an enthusiastic champion of childhood and family literacy,” said Valerie Bell, executive director of the Athens Regional Library System. “She has touched many lives in her years at the Athens Regional Library System, and we are beyond thrilled for her contributions to be recognized with this award.”
Ballard began her library career at the Athens-Clarke County Library working in educational technology, teaching and assisting patrons with computers and software. When a position in children’s services opened, Rebecca began developing new programs highlighting music and puppetry. She relocated a few years later to the Oconee County Library to serve as the Children’s Services manager, developing creative library programming and increasing children’s program attendance by 400 percent. Currently, she serves as regional Children’s Services coordinator for the Athens Regional Library System and serves as president of the Georgia Library Association for 2023.
“Rebecca’s cumulative talent is a force of nature that the library is wise to nurture and support,” said Chari Pavlos, library supporter. “The children of the Athens and Oconee communities have a safe, warm, caring space to explore their world, arts, learning, and growth when they engage in the library’s children’s programs with Miss Rebecca.”
She is locally famous for her children’s band, Rebecca Sunshine Band, which she incorporates into children’s programming at the library. Her undergraduate studies in music, theater and costume design at the University of Georgia have enabled her to further share her talent through library workshops, puppet shows, costumes and theater.
“I love that I can help make the library a welcoming second home for a lot of people,” Ballard said. “I love designing programs, and I love getting kids excited about literature and the library.”
Ballard champions the expansion and preservation of library campuses, leads the Lego Club, hosts events with children’s book authors, and organizes Star Wars Day, which has become an annual community event attracting hundreds of attendees. Her programs are neuro-inclusive and often highlight underrepresented groups.
“Rebecca is absolutely critical to the mental health and well-being of this community, especially its children and parents,” said Jo Robertson, library supporter.
Ballard received many nominations from parents, who all noted the impact she’s had on their lives. “From the time that my daughter was a baby - during story times to now as a young reader - she remembers my daughter, can recall her specific interests, and is always delightful with a positive personality with a knack for connecting to children,” said Sandy Green, library supporter. “My daughter has recognized Rebecca through her children’s band outside of the library. Her gifted music abilities, involvement in the community, knowledgeability, and overwhelming kindness have meant so much to our family and many others.”
Award winners are selected from nominations submitted by library patrons, trustees, Friends of Libraries groups and library staff, showcasing the best and brightest who serve in public libraries throughout the state. In addition to Ballard, Marshes of Glynn Libraries has been awarded Library of the Year; Cameron Asbell of Ohoopee Regional Library System is Director of the Year; and Clyde and Sandra Strickland are Library Champions of the Year.
Ballard will be celebrated in a local ceremony on Friday, April 21, from 3-5 p.m. at Athens-Clarke County Library.
The Athens-Clarke County Library, located at 2025 Baxter Street, Athens, is the headquarters branch of the Athens Regional Library System. The library system was previously named 2017 Georgia Public Library of the Year. Visit athenslibrary.org for information about library programs and services.
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