The Van Wylen Library at Hope College has been named the national winner in the college category of the 2004 "Excellence in Academic Libraries Award" presented by the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL).

The award, sponsored by ACRL and Blackwell's Book Services, recognizes staff for programs that deliver exemplary services and resources to further the educational mission of the institution. Criteria include creativity in meeting the needs of their academic community; leadership in creating exemplary programs that other libraries can emulate; and strong relationships with classroom faculty and students.

"Receiving an Excellence in Academic Libraries Award is a national tribute to a library and its staff for the outstanding services, programs and leadership they provide to their students, administrators, faculty and community," said Mary Ellen K. Davis, ACRL executive director.The association honors only one college library, one community college library and one university library each year.

"In support of Hope College's commitment to excellence in learning and teaching, the Van Wylen Library is dedicated to being a vibrant center of intellectual and cultural life and playing a significant educational role," said Mary Reichel, chair of the 2004 Excellence in Academic Libraries Selection Committee. "The library's fulfillment of this commitment is seen in the extensive and innovative Library Instruction program, excellent collaboration with classroom faculty, and a staff dedicated to helping students become life-long learners. Exemplary programs include innovative uses of sabbaticals for librarians, a dynamic team-based organization and thoughtful Web site usability studies."

The college's director of libraries, David Jensen, praised his colleagues for the day-to-day dedication and the college for the ongoing support that he feels ultimately earned the honor.

"It's the staff who won this," he said. "We've been fortunate to have good people who care about what they're doing and are interested in students and seeing that they make the best possible use of the information resources that are available to them."

"At the same time, the library doesn't do this by itself - it takes a whole institution," he said. "Our whole program here is built on relationships - relationships with the faculty, and relationships with the students."

Given the college's emphasis on teaching and scholarship, Jensen said, the library focuses on instruction. By working with the college's freshman-oriented First-Year Seminar and English 113 programs, the staff helps every new student learn more about using library resources. Work with upper-level courses includes helping faculty find ways to add technology and information literacy instruction. The library also houses the college's technical learning center, which provides hands-on instruction available to all Hope students in the use of various software packages.

Jensen noted that the staff also seeks to stay responsive to campus needs and preferences. Based on a recent survey of students, for example, the library has been revamping its Web site to make it easier to use.

As director of the college's English 113 program, Barbara Mezeske works closely with the library staff. She feels the award is well-deserved.

"I think it's just an absolutely wonderful recognition of what a fine job our library does," said Mezeske, an associate professor of English who also chairs the college's library committee. "It's an integral part of our writing program to have close and easy access to our librarians. They provide it willingly and helpfully."

As a teacher and scholar, she is particularly pleased that Hope's library is outstanding. "I think the library and the things that it represents - the quest for knowledge - is at the very heart of the institution," she said.

The Hope library has 21 full- and part-time staff, who during the school year are assisted by approximately 100 part-time student employees. The five-story Van Wylen Library building, which opened in 1988, is named for the college's ninth president and his wife, Dr. Gordon J. and Dr. Margaret D. Van Wylen. The main library and a branch library in Nykerk Hall of Music contain more than 345,000 volumes, as well as materials in other formats, including microforms, videos, DVDs, CDs, and electronic books and journals.

This is the fifth year that ACRL has presented the "Excellence in Academic Libraries Award." The other two winners this year are Richland College Library in the community college category, and the University of Washington in the university category. The four schools that won previously in the college category are: Wellesley College (2000), Earlham College (2001), Oberlin College (2002) and Baruch College (2003).

The award includes a plaque and a $3,000 gift that will be presented during a ceremony on Thursday, March 4 at 2 p.m. at the library. The award will be presented by Tyrone Cannon, president of ACRL and dean of university libraries at the University of San Francisco Library.

The winner will also receive special recognition in June at the ACRL President's Program during the American Library Association (ALA) annual conference in Orlando, Fla.

ACRL is a division of the American Library Association, representing 12,000 academic and research librarians and interested individuals. ACRL is the only individual membership organization in North America that develops programs, products and services to meet the unique needs of academic librarians. Its initiatives enable the higher education community to understand the role that academic libraries play in the teaching, learning and research environments.