A statewide library association recently recognized the efforts of Korie Buerkle, assistant director at the Newberg Public Library, for her key role in this year's Oregon Battle of the Books (OBOB).
Taking the lead of the state program's finances this year, Buerkle assumed the "unexpected and monumental task" of buying more than 8,000 books and making sure they got to more than 500 schools across the state, according to a press release.
Newberg Library Director Leah Griffith attributed Buerkle's nomination for the Oregon Library Association's Pearl Award by her OBOB peers — and a boost in local students participating in the program — to her affection for the program.
"When children would come up to the desk at the library and ask for the OBOB books, (ask) when are the practice sessions and proudly tell you their team name, you know this a valuable rite of passage for these students," Griffith said. "At Newberg we had a tremendous increase in the number of students participating in OBOB, due (in) part to Korie's infectious enthusiasm for this program."
Buerkle received the award at the Oregon Library Association's annual conference April 19.
The annual Pearl Award, formerly known as the Olé Award, recognizes a public library employee who makes "exceptional effort and excellence," comparing winners to a "pearl in an oyster — one who agitates, makes change over time," in a Facebook post announcing Buerkle as the winner. The OLA's website lists Griffith as the 2008 winner of the award.
"I feel grateful, and humbled and I really want people to know that while I may be the most visible person working on OBOB in my community and with this grant, I did not do it alone," Buerkle said in an email, acknowledging the efforts of OBOB volunteers, the library's children's staff and her husband.
Buerkle started working with the OBOB program as a question writer and has also served as a member of general committee, a member of the committee selecting books for the elementary level and a regional manager, leading her to develop a regional tournament system that allowed more students to take part.
The program groups participating students into teams to read books, develop a detailed understanding and test their knowledge in school, district, regional and statewide tournaments.
Eventually joining the OBOB executive board, Buerkle became finance chairwoman last year where she took charge of purchasing books with $33,000 of unexpected funding to be used in a month.
"It was an unexpectedly wonderful thing for school libraries across the state, and an unexpectedly huge amount of work for me," she said, praising her staff for picking up the slack for her.
She then managed the distribution of more than 8,000 books that arrived at the Newberg library with staff, volunteers OBOB committee members and others, even her own husband who helped her get half of the books to the post office.