Morley librarian Kinnaman surprised with state librarian of year honor

Steph Kinnaman loves to help children at Morley Elementary School enjoy the surprises that come from turning pages of each new book.
Students and staff members were the ones to give Kinnaman a heartwarming surprise Dec. 11 by presenting her with a prestigious library award.
Members of the Nebraska School Librarians Association (NSLA) honored Kinnaman with the 2023 Nebraska School Librarian of the Year Award. Morley Principal Brandi Hennerberg asked Kinnaman to come to the gym to watch a winter band concert that was taking place that morning. She was shocked when Lincoln Public Schools Director of Library Services Chris Haeffner told the audience with a smile that she had been named the state’s top librarian.
“I was so surprised,” Kinnaman said. “I love being here. I get to work with so many good students and teachers every day, so to have something like this happen is just amazing. It’s very humbling.”
Hennerberg felt Kinnaman’s work ethic and instructional excellence had left a life-changing impression on everyone in the building.
“She’s very deserving,” Hennerberg said. “She always says how much she loves her job and how she enjoys being around students every day. I was really excited when I heard that she was going to receive the award.”
The NSLA is a professional organization for school librarians and members of the library community in Nebraska. The group advocates for school library programs, provides professional learning opportunities and helps to develop leaders in the school library field.
Recipients of the Nebraska School Librarian of the Year Award must demonstrate creativity and innovation in the profession through instructional opportunities and programming. All current NSLA members are eligible for the honor.
Mandy Peterson, PK-12 librarian at Shelby-Rising City Public Schools, served as chair of this year’s NSLA Awards Committee. She said committee members were impressed by Kinnaman’s dedication to her craft and her passion for creating lesson plans for elementary classrooms. They reviewed many of her lessons and felt they showed a superior level of writing and care.
“Overall, Steph models modern school librarianship in a consistent, powerful manner,” Peterson said. “That’s what the nomination showed us, and everything I looked up online extended the notion even further. I’m proud to have her representing our profession as the 2023 Nebraska School Librarian of the Year.”
LPS Library Services staff members Joy Harvey, Emily Jacobs and Betsy Thomas nominated Kinnaman for the award in early August. Harvey is library services coordinator and Jacobs and Thomas are both library services instructional leaders. They praised Kinnaman in their nomination letter and said she owned all the qualities of a great librarian.
“Steph Kinnaman is a true example of a 21st-Century librarian,” Harvey, Jacobs and Thomas said. “She is a master teacher who weaves information literacy, digital citizenship and research skills into highly-engaging and well-developed instruction for grades K-5. She leads by example through her teaching of immersive library lessons that provide a solid foundation of literacy and inquiry skills for all students.
“Stephanie is an active leader in our Professional Learning Community, where she helps create lessons for other librarians to use that are well-written, engaging and fun to teach and participate in. Steph has such a talent for lesson writing that we leveraged her expertise to help us with a summer committee to write additional lessons in support of other elementary librarians in our district.”
Peterson said their letter played a key role in the committee’s decision.
“They wrote a lovely nomination that showcased Steph’s creativity, innovation and professionalism,” Peterson said. “Between the lines, the deep respect and care they felt for Steph was evident.”
Kinnaman fell in love with libraries while growing up in Havre, Mont. She earned a Bachelor of Science in inclusive early childhood education from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2007, and she later secured a master’s degree in instructional technology/library science from the University of Nebraska-Kearney.
Kinnaman joined LPS in 2007 and taught second grade at Saratoga Elementary School until moving to Morley in 2016. She said her classroom experience has helped her in her current librarian role.
“It gave me a really good foundation for collaborating with teachers and meeting their needs,” Kinnaman said. “We have amazing partnerships here at Morley. I love working with the teachers and students here.”
Hennerberg felt it was essential to have Kinnaman receive the award in front of the entire student body. She learned band members would be performing a schoolwide concert in the gym, which would provide a perfect reason for asking Kinnaman to leave the library. Hennerberg and NSLA members coordinated the surprise presentation at the end of the concert.
“It just worked out perfectly,” Hennerberg said. “It was incredibly nice to have everyone here to see her. The kids just adore her and really respect her, so to have them get to see her is something that was really important.”
Harvey, Jacobs and Thomas said Kinnaman would continue to help students turn positive pages in their lives with her library-based work.
“Steph demonstrates professionalism and leadership each and every day through her library instruction, collaborative partnerships and community involvement,” they said. “Her library is not only warm and welcoming, it’s a model of great teaching. She’s a master at classroom management and organization.”
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Published: December 18, 2023, Updated: December 18, 2023

Steph Kinnaman beams after receiving the 2023 Nebraska School Librarian of the Year Award on Dec. 11. Kinnaman is the librarian at Morley Elementary School and was surprised with the honor at an all-school band concert. The Nebraska School Librarians Association presents the award to one librarian in the state each year.