By Lany Walden McDonald
News Library News
Fall 1991

How many times have your friends or colleagues outside the News Division asked this question?

With all due respect to the founding father of our division, Joe Kwapil did have a furry sounding last name (as in ''her full-length evening wrap trimmed in genuine Kwapil fur...). But to those of us within the News Division, a Kwapil is the news librarian's equivalent of a Pulitzer.

Most of us were not around to know Joe Kwapil, or even Agnes Henebry or Ralph J. Shoemaker, but receiving one of the division awards takes on added significance in light of the notable former members for whom these awards were named.


The Joseph F. Kwapil Memorial Award is the highest recognition of the News Division. It is given for major achievement in the field of news librarianship and for outstanding service to the News Division to a member who has actively participated in the division's programs and projects for a continuous period of ten years of more.

JOSEPH KWAPIL worked in several newspaper libraries before he was chosen by the Philadelphia Public Ledger to create a modern newspaper library in 1914. Nine years and many innovations later, he left the Public Ledger in the capable hands of his employee Ralph Shoemaker and began to work fulltime on establishing an organization of newspaper librarians. At the time, cooperation between newspapers was frowned upon, so it was a bold venture to suggest that newspaper librarians share their expertise. Kwapil was persistent and managed to convene the first meeting of newspaper librarians in Atlantic City in 1923. The next year the group affiliated with the Special Libraries Association, and our division was born.

At the annual membership meeting in 1977, Homer Martin recommended the division establish an awards program. The recommendation was approved, and the Joseph F. Kwapil Memorial Award was established.

The first recipient of the Kwapil Award was AGNES C. HENEBRY.


The Agnes Henebry Roll of Honor Award is given to a member or former member for service to the division and for participation in division programs and projects.

AGNES HENEBRY was a librarian for the Decatur, Illinois newspapers from 1930 to 1973. In 1973 she was given the job of supervising the operation of eight newspaper libraries for Lindsay-Schaub Newspapers. Her many contributions to the News Division included conducting library seminars, serving as an author and editor for the 1974 edition of ''Guidelines for Newspaper Libraries'', and holding all division offices. The Roll of Honor Award established in 1977 was renamed the Henebry Award after Ms. Henebry's death in 1982.


The Ralph J. Shoemaker Award is a certificate given to the News Division Chair upon the completion of his or her term of office.

In 1984, the Award of Merit, given to the outgoing chairman, became the Ralph J. Shoemaker Award of Merit, honoring the newspaper librarian who learned his trade under Joseph Kwapil. Leaving Philadelpia, RALPH SHOEMAKER went to the Louisville Courier-Journal and Times in 1947, where he served as chief librarian, wrote a weekly column for the Sunday paper, and is credited with inventing the first practical microfilm reader-printer and for working with ANPA to publish subject classifications for his newspaper clipping and picture files. He was the recipient of the first Roll of Honor (Henebry) Award in 1978 and the Kwapil Award in 1980.


The Vormelker-Thomas Student Stipend is awarded to a graduate student SLA member who demonstrates interest in and knowledge of news librarianship. Applicants are judged on the basis of a submitted essay, a resume, recommendations, and work experience. This monetary award must be applied toward expenses to attend SLA annual conference.

ROSE VORMELKER taught many students about newspaper libraries. After a full career as a news librarian in Cleveland, she went to Kent State in 1963 and began teaching what was then the only college course in the U.S. on newspaper libraries. In addition to numerous activities on behalf of the News Division, she served as SLA president, helped Franklin Roosevelt's administration establish war and defense information centers in 4,000 libraries around the nation, was elected to the Ohio Library Hall of Fame, the Graphic Arts Hall of Distinction, and SLA's Hall of Fame.

LOU THOMAS, retired director of the Baton Rouge newspaper libraries, has strongly influenced the education of many current news librarians through her work devoted to news librarianship and the News Division. She has been active in the News Division and the Louisiana Chapter of SLA, holding offices and chairing committees for both. In 1990 Lou received SLA's John Cotton Dana award. She is also a recipient of the Henebry and Kwapil Awards.


This unnamed award is offered periodically to persons or to an institution for an outstanding contribution to the field of information science and/or news librarianship. This certificate is to be awarded to persons who are not eligible for the division's awards, but have made outstanding contributions to our profession by either pioneering and implementing projects and programs of unusual merit or by undertaking major research in the information retrieval and management-related fields.

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