Herb receives highest national award for library service to children

February 12, 2018

DENVER — Penn State Librarian Emeritus Steven L. Herb was announced Feb. 10 as the 2018 recipient of the Distinguished Service Award from the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), a division of the American Library Association (ALA). The award honors an individual who has made significant contributions to library service to children and to ALSC.

Herb, a longtime advocate of early literacy services in libraries, also is director emeritus of the Pennsylvania Center for the Book, which is co-sponsored by the Penn State University Libraries and Barbara I. Dewey, dean of University Libraries and Scholarly Communications. The mission of the Pennsylvania Center for the Book, an affiliate of the Library of Congress Center for the Book, is to study, honor, celebrate and promote books, reading, libraries and literacy to the citizens and residents of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

“Steven’s contributions to children’s literature in America as an advocate and expert are widespread and well known, and this honor is both well deserved and well earned. From his many years of service to the Association for Library Service to Children to his selection for service on three of the most prestigious award committees for children's literature — the Newbery Medal, Caldecott Medal and the Geisel Award — Steven’s impact leaves an admirable legacy,” Dewey said.

“Foremost for Pennsylvanians, though, is his passion for the Pennsylvania Center for the Book,” she added. “His foresight to make its home at Penn State’s University Libraries has been instrumental in bringing a wealth of North America’s foremost authors and poets through our doors, not only to honor them with prestigious awards he helped to establish but, significantly, to share their talents with Penn State students as well as citizens of our Commonwealth.”

Herb has served ALSC as a member-leader in 25 positions over 35 years of volunteerism, including as ALSC president in 1995-96. His expertise in literature benefited a number of media evaluation and award committees, including chairing the 2012 Caldecott Committee. Herb’s depth of professional service also includes chairing the ALA Intellectual Freedom Committee during a sensitive period when filtering software was being introduced and debated.

“Steven Herb exemplifies deep, sustained and impactful service to our profession,” ALSC Chair Mary Fellows said. “During his 35 years of ALSC membership Steven has always focused on contributing. Whether on process committees or in the spotlight of the ALSC presidency, through his public library work, teaching or research, Steven has consistently shown us how to be more and do greater things. We have all created a better future for children through libraries thanks to Steven’s example and sheer output.”

Herb is an author and a teacher as well as a leader. A strong interest in early childhood education and literacy propelled him through earning undergraduate, master of education and doctoral degrees from Penn State, as well as a master’s degree in information and library science from Clarion University. He began his career as a special education teacher, then served as a children’s librarian in Maryland at the Washington County Free Library.

Following a decade as coordinator of children’s service at the Dauphin County Library System in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Herb became Penn State University Libraries’ head of the Education and Behavioral Sciences Library. He also served as affiliate professor of language and literacy education in the College of Education, and in 2000, he was named director of the Pennsylvania Center for the Book.

He has co-authored several books, including professional titles “Using Children's Books in Preschool Settings: A How-To-Do-It Manual” (Neal Schuman Pub, 1994) and “Connecting Fathers, Children and Reading: A How-To-Do-It Manual for Librarians” with Sara Willoughby-Herb, (Neal-Schuman Pub., 1994 and 2002, respectively). He also co-authored “Animals on Parade: Animal Poems for Children” and “Stretch, Jiggle, Jump: Action Rhymes for Children,” (both, Continental Press, 1991).

In 2007, Herb was appointed Follett Chair and Visiting Professor in the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at Dominican University. This position, reserved for professors who already were known in the field for distinguished research, was one of only four endowed chairs in library schools at the time of Herb’s appointment.

Susan Roman, dean emerita of the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at Dominican University, noted, “Steven has worked tirelessly on behalf of ALSC and for all children throughout his very distinguished career. He used the research as a springboard to new and exciting ideas for reaching children and those families and caregivers who had the most influence on a child’s sound development. His mark on ALSC and the field of children’s librarianship for over 40 years is profound.”

In response to news of the award, Herb said, “I am astounded by this extraordinary honor. To be recognized for doing something I loved for nearly 40 years, in this manner, is almost beyond imagining. I’ve always enjoyed the Groucho Marx line that he would never belong to a club that would have him as a member. No more. This Distinguished Service Award is exactly 180 degrees round — a collection of my heroines and heroes in the world of children, books and library services!”

The Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) is driven by more than 4,000 members dedicated to the support and enrichment of library service to children. Its members include youth librarians, literature experts, publishers and educational faculty.

The 2018 ALSC Distinguished Service Award Committee includes Chair Mary Fellows, Albany, New York.; Diane Foote, Chicago; Maria Gentle, Arlington, Virginia; Jennifer Knight, Port Angeles, Washington; and John Scott, Baltimore. For more information about the award, email Elizabeth Serrano, ALSC membership marketing specialist, or call 312-280-2164.

  • photo of man standing in front of corner bookshelves full of children's books

    Steven Herb, Penn State librarian emeritus and 2018 recipient of the Distinguished Service Award from the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), a division of the American Library Association

    IMAGE: Steve Tressler/Vista Professional Studios
Last Updated February 21, 2018