“It is rare to meet an individual who has devoted their entire working life to one organization. It is rarer to get the opportunity to work with someone who has demonstrated such devotion along with leadership, commitment, a passion for service, and an exceptional work ethic,” said Lisa MacKinney, library director of Hall County Library System.

Lydia Hahne was recognized as the 2023 Georgia Public Library Employee of the Year for her years of service and ensuring the library can serve its community by managing budgets, mentoring fellow staff, and taking on challenges beyond what is expected.

Hahne began working for the library as a shelver when she was 15 years old in 1979. During her 44 years at the library, she has held several positions including administrative assistant, circulation assistant, and bookkeeper. Hahne retired earlier this Spring.

When the library endured years of financial struggles stemming from the 2008 financial crisis, Hahne guided the funding and budgeting processes to ensure the library continued functioning with reduced services.

By 2015, the system had closed two branches, operated with a minimal budget, and dramatically reduced service hours due to low staff levels. Despite budget constraints, Hahne worked to help keep essential library services functioning.

“Fast forward to the end of the 2023 fiscal year, thanks in large part to Lydia’s hard work and skills, the Hall County Library System has a fund balance that sits at the recommendation level. We have our best-ever material budget,” said MacKinney. “None of these things would be possible without Lydia’s steady hand and knowledge.”

Hahne’s work has supported the library’s ability to introduce or expand services such as passport and notary services, as well as the restoration of many of the library system’s operating hours that were previously lost due to budget cuts. The library has also completed several remodeling projects at multiple branches, with plans for a new branch in development.

“We all worked together and supported each other, and we brainstormed how we could utilize different resources to help keep the doors open as much as we could and provide quality programs. Since we were united and worked as a team, we were able to get through those hardships,” said Hahne. “I’ve seen the library now grow into a very strong and vital resource for the community. And it’s all because of us working together and being dedicated as an organization.”

“Her presence and reassurances that our library could continue to operate and serve the community helped keep staff morale positive,” said Bernice Cox, a member of the Friends of Hall County Library System. “Our library weathered this most difficult time in large part due to her judgment, her guidance, and her skills.”

Georgia Public Library Employee of the Year: Special Recognition

Georgia Public Library Service would also like to recognize five additional nominees for Library Employee of the Year.

Denita Thomas, affiliate service coordinator, Middle Georgia Regional Library

Denita Thomas, who has worked for the library system for over 25 years, oversees library services in Crawford, Macon, and Twiggs Counties. She was nominated for her efforts to serve all patrons, especially children.

With funding she secured through The Sandra Dunagan Deal Center, Thomas created Early Learning Kits to help promote and teach early learning and reading skills, as well as foster the love of reading to young patrons.

According to nominator Glenda Rigby, Oglethorpe Public Library branch manager, Thomas goes above and beyond to ensure all patrons feel welcome, this includes her work on the library’s Diversity Committee. Thomas also serves on the Georgia Public Library Service’s Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Accessibility (IDEA) committee.

“She has a heart for all people and is very inclusive. When I have concerns, Denita listens intently and offers suggestions. She wants us all to be successful for our patrons and the communities that we represent,” said Rigby.

Shantelle Grant, regional youth and children’s coordinator, Toccoa-Stephens County Library, Northeast Georgia Regional Library

Grant has worked at the Toccoa-Stephens County Library since 2007. She received several nominations from library supporters who noted her excellent work serving children.

“She does a wonderful job! The children all adore her; their faces light up when they come in and see her,” said Kathy Browne, library assistant and co-worker.

According to nominators, she works beyond what is expected to make sure children have enriching early literacy programs, life and soft skills workshops, book talks, summer reading programs, and other programs that help make lasting impacts and build relationships within the community.

“She makes sure us parents are up to date and aware of our community resources, community events, and any school projects or programs we should be involved in,” said David Griffin, a library supporter.

“Shantelle is a natural teacher. Her upbeat and happy personality and her fearlessness draw both children and parents into library programs,” said Carol Glaze, adult programming director.

Kelly Hughes, library manager, Barnesville-Lamar County Library, Flint River Regional Library System

Hughes has worked at the Barnesville-Lamar County Library for over 27 years. She is known for her record of community leadership and service, as well as her ability to recognize the unique needs of library users and residents of a small and rural county.

According to nominator Janet Powell-McCord, a member of the library’s Friends Group, one of Hughes’ most significant accomplishments as branch manager was leading the effort to expand the library, which had insufficient storage and work space for the staff, along with several other issues.

“Over a 10-year period, Kelly tackled the tasks of finding the funds, getting help and input from the community, working with the architect, and organizing the move of books and equipment in preparation for construction, while continuing to provide as many services as possible,” said Powell-McCord.

“She is the person who never hesitates to buy in on a new project or idea for improving library services, such as the founding of their Book Buddies program for young children and the popular Teen Advisory Board. She’s the first person to say ‘let’s make this happen’ when a new challenge comes her way,” said Natalie Marshall, executive director of Flint River Regional Library System.

Hughes was recently elected as Mayor of Barnesville.

Myguail Chappel, library branch supervisor for library take-out services, DeKalb County Public Library

Chappel was nominated for his efforts to accommodate patrons with disabilities. According to nominator Empish Thomas, a library supporter, Chappel is observant and goes beyond to accommodate the needs of patrons.

“His book selections were always available in audio format. I remember one time he reached out to me to double-check if a particular book was accessible,” said Thomas. “This spoke volumes to me as a blind person. It showed me he was making genuine efforts to be inclusive.”

Chappel also ensures that the voices of senior patrons are heard and their needs are met. He leads the library’s senior advisory board and works with his colleagues and community stakeholders to provide enriching resources, programs, and activities.

“Inclusivity lies at the heart of Myguail’s 27-year tenure at DeKalb County Public Library,” said Alison Weissinger, the library system’s director. “He embodies the best of what the library strives to achieve with his dedication to serving everyone in the community.”

Latifah Rasheed, branch manager, Elizabeth H. Williams Library, Gwinnett County Public Library

Rasheed, manager of the Elizabeth H. Williams branch library, is known for her deep passion for community and staff well-being at Gwinnett County Public Library. She has worked for the library system for five years and under her guidance mental health guidelines and tools were put in place to assist staff members dealing with mental health concerns. Her mental health advocacy within the library earned her the “Unsung Heroes Award” from the library system.

“Knowing that your organization is concerned enough about your mental health, that they would create a task force to address it, was an excellent endeavor,” said Argentina Murphy, director of Human Resources at Gwinnett County Public Library.

“We are very proud of Latifah and her ongoing contributions to our library system and our community. She is well known for her advocacy and we consider ourselves fortunate to have her here at Gwinnett County Public Library,” said Charles Pace, executive director at Gwinnett County Public Library

Stay connected

Subscribe to get library news delivered to your inbox!

Subscribe to our mailing list for a paper copy of Library News.

Join the conversation

Follow us on social media.

facebook logoinstagram logolinked in logothreads logoyou tube logo