Joan Larson of Alexandria was awarded a Minnesota Library Association (MLA) Distinguished Achievement Award at the MLA annual state convention, held recently in St. Cloud.

The Distinguished Achievement Award Category I is presented in recognition of distinguished service to the profession and for active and innovative leadership in the development of libraries and the improvement of library services.

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Candidates are nominated from the membership and selected by an awards committee.

In her formal career and as a volunteer after retirement, Larson has been a library innovator, diplomat, mentor and role model.

Larson began her professional library career at mid-life, working in academic, public and special libraries in various parts of the country.

She returned with her family to Minnesota in 1982 to become the coordinator of the Northern Lights Library Network (NLLN).

During her 18 years in this role, her accomplishments were many and were often ground-breaking in nature. Throughout her career and into retirement, she has worked tirelessly as a member of the American Library Association, Friends of the Library USA, Minnesota Library Association (serving as president), Minnesota Association of Library Friends (MALF), Minnesota Reading Association, Minnesota Coalition for Intellectual Freedom and American Association of University Women.

Larson has initiated and participated in task forces, committees, and ad hoc work groups, always with the aim to see projects through to a successful conclusion.

In recent years, her commitment has turned to working with her local Friends of the Library in Douglas County, with the Trustees and Advocates section of MLA, with MALF, serving on the NLLN governing board, and maintaining an active role in the Spotlight on Books Conference and numerous literacy projects.

Larson had multiple nominations for the award. One of her nominators wrote the following about her:

"The impact that Joan Larson has had on the Minnesota library community is truly reflective of her knowledge, enthusiasm, patience and collaborative spirit. As a multi-type director, she encouraged cooperation among different types of libraries, ranging from resource sharing to providing great access via integrated library systems to literacy activities.

"Joan's professional leadership and her professionalism have touched not only librarians... but also thousands of Minnesota library users. Her involvement in the state's professional organizations (MLA and MEMO) has demonstrated true leadership. An active member of the Minnesota Association of Library Friends (MALF), she continues to share her innovative spirit, ideas, and ideals to make library service better through community library support groups."

Larson was honored at the 2009 Minnesota Library Association Annual Awards Banquet on October 15.