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Award-winning librarian branches out from books to build up Middle Georgia community

State Librarian Julie Walker, right, presents Jennifer Lautzenheiser with Georgia's Public Librarian of the Year award on Jan. 12, 2017 at Washinton Memorial Library.
State Librarian Julie Walker, right, presents Jennifer Lautzenheiser with Georgia's Public Librarian of the Year award on Jan. 12, 2017 at Washinton Memorial Library.

Jennifer Lautzenheiser looks beyond the rows of books at Washington Memorial Library and sees people.

“I’m from the school of librarians build community,” Lautzenheiser said Thursday.

After two years as director of the Middle Georgia Regional Library System, Lautzenheiser was chosen Georgia’s Public Librarian of the Year.

“I came into a community that had already done the hard work of learning how to work together,” she said. “It was kind of right for me to come in and say, ‘Hey, we want to join in.’”

The award recognizes innovative and creative talents in delivering outstanding library service.

She is also being praised for having to make difficult decisions, including closing the Northwest Commons branch on Thomaston Road.

Lautzenheiser brought several initiatives including the 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten program, Funding Information Network through the Community Foundation and brought new programming to branches in the system, according to a news release about the award.

“Our library system is dedicated to connecting community members with the information necessary to improve their lives, whether that is through access to credible information, technology literacy, cultural heritage or recreation,” Lautzenheiser said.

She was chosen from more than three dozen nominations from public library directors, trustees and Friends of the Library groups.

Macon-Bibb County Commissioner Gary Bechtel, whose father was a longtime library board member, grew up coming to Washington Memorial Library and has noted Lautzenheiser’s contributions.

“She’s always willing to work with our staff members and our commissioners to try to grow the library, to try to grow the opportunities for our children, for our families,” Bechtel said at Thursday’s awards presentation in Macon.

State Librarian Julie Walker said Lautzenheiser’s leadership qualities set her apart.

“She’s really a shining example of all that’s best in our profession,” Walker said. “She’s the first to offer encouragement, acknowledgment and congratulations and give credit to those around her.”

Walker also lauded Lautzenheiser’s ability to weigh options and consult with appropriate parties before making decisions.

Lautzenheiser received $500, a glass plaque and will be recognized at the State Capitol on Feb. 8.

Liz Fabian: 478-744-4303, @liz_lines

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