masthead-Ava

BY RICHARD DYMOND rdymond@bradenton.com

MANATEE Her last name is pro-nounced “Edy” like the ice cream company, Edy’s.

Ave Ehde would prob-ably appreciate that pronunciation tip since her colleagues say she tries to make her workplace a veritable dessert.

Ehde is a Manatee County librarian who believes that libraries should be community centers, not book warehouses.

Due in part to decisions she has made — like turning some library space into creative labs, tutoring niches and reading rooms— Ehde has been named the Florida Library Association’s 2017 Librarian of the Year.

Elana Karshmer, president of the Florida Library Association, called Ehde to let her know she had won the award.

Ava Ehde Florida's Librarian of the Year“The notification was very exciting,” Ehde said Monday. “I’m deeply honored to be receiving this accolade from my colleagues. I am extremely fortunate to work with an amazing library team consisting of staff, volunteers and board members whose successful efforts responding to community identified needs makes me look great daily.”

Ehde has spent five years as a library administrator in Manatee County and her current title is libraries’ service manager.

“Ava has elevated the level of commitment to libraries, the staff and the public since she took the helm to bring a wide range of programming and re-sources to our community,” Manatee County’s Cheri Coryea, director of neighborhood services, said in a news release.

“Her desire for every person in Manatee County to have access to free resources and services for life through their library card is becoming a reality,” Coryea added.

Under Ehde, the Mana-tee County Public Library enjoyed a record high resource distribution last year with nearly 850,000 customers making 3.9 million checkouts of materials, Coryea said.

The Librarian of the Year award annually recognizes a person who has made outstanding and ongoing contributions to Florida librarian-ship, said Coryea, whose Neighborhood Services includes the county’s libraries.

Coryea cites several new programs and serv-ices over the past two years as examples of Ehde’s commitment.

Ehde was the force behind “I Am a Lifelong Learner,” a program whereby a literacy coor-dinator conducts ongoing outreach to distressed communities in need of early childhood literacy.

Ehde also worked with her staff on “Area 52 Creative Lab,” where teens can develop new skills in robotics, industrial sewing and other skills.

Kevin Beach, library operations manager, had strong words of support for Ehde.

“In just five years as an administrator, Ava has reset the libraries’ priorities, raised the morale of a struggling staff and energized us to be more compassionate and com-munity-aware,” Beach said.

Ehde has “vaulted our reputation as an innovative organization that gets results,” Beach added.

In line with the value she has placed to turn the library from a warehouse to a community center, Ehde has transformed library space into tutoring space, art displays and special events, such as the annual, “Teen Recycled Fashion Show,” and

“Reading With the Rays,” Coryea said.

Some library space has been turned into a new business incubator for small business owners.