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Library Home > Teen Home > Award > Literacy Award

Literacy Award Goes to Our Teen Librarians

Congratulations to TeenXTreme Librarians Cindy Beach and John Waller of the Public Library of Youngstown & Mahoning County (PLYMC), who were honored with the Dr. Susan Leone Celebrate Literacy Award by the Mahoning Valley Council of the International Reading Association (MVCIRA) Nov. 12.

Young Adult Author Matt de la Pena was guest speaker at the event. From his website,,  “Matt de la Peña is the author of five critically-acclaimed young adult novels: Ball Don’t Lie, Mexican WhiteBoy, We Were Here, I Will Save You and The Living. He’s also the author of the award-winning picture book A Nation’s Hope: The Story of Boxing Legend Joe Louis (illustrated by Kadir Nelson). Matt received his MFA in creative writing from San Diego State University and his BA from the University of the Pacific where he attended school on a full basketball scholarship. de la Peña currently lives in Brooklyn NY. He teaches creative writing and visits high schools and colleges throughout the country.”

The Library’s TeenXTreme program is dedicated to reaching teens in grades 7-12 and keeping alive their love of reading, using tools like creative programming to draw them into the library. (

Beach and Waller were honored for their commitment to promoting literacy. The award is named in memory of past-president Dr. Susan Leone. Kate Gavalier, president-elect of the teachers association, noted that the award honors Dr. Leone for the positive impact she made on the lives of students and teachers throughout her career. The award was presented by Dr. Leone’s husband, Ron, and Michelle Best, MVCIRA president, who expressed her gratitude for the difference a program like TeenXTreme makes in encouraging teens to read.

“It is especially gratifying to have the work of our dedicated teen librarians honored by an organization of the stature of MVCIRA,” said Heidi M. Daniel, Executive Director, PLYMC. “We are proud of the work our librarians do with local educators who are dedicated to enriching the lives of their students through the world of books. Cindy and John are enthusiastic and totally engaged in making the Library a must-be place for teens.”

Josephine Nolfi, Manager of Youth Services and Programming at PLYMC, noted, “There are few resources in the community that specifically target the needs of our teen population. Cindy and John recognized this need early and have worked tirelessly to reach teens by creating programs and activities that help fulfill their developmental needs.   They’ve also helped teens discover books in a way that is meaningful during this time in their lives.  The educational benefits of lifelong reading are unquestionable, but by working closely with our teens, Cindy and John have found to a way to help them, through good books, learn about themselves and the world around them in a safe, nurturing environment.”

Literacy Award Teen Award Literacy
Pictured are (from left): Library Executive Director Heidi Daniel, Cindy Beach,
John Waller, Ron Leone, and MVCIRA current president Michelle Best.
Above: John and Cindy accepting their award from Ron Leone.
Teen Award Matt Pictured are (from left): Cindy Beach, John Waller, author Matt de la Pena, and Library Executive Director Heidi Daniel.

Matt de la Pena, is the author of “I Will Save You,” “Ball Don’t Lie,” “The Living.”

Visit his website for more information:


Cindy Beach

“I was proud to receive the award because it means that our community sees and recognizes the library as a valuable resource that is truly beneficial to the teens of our county,” said Beach, who has been with the Mahoning County library system for 14 years.  “Although teens are rushing toward becoming adults, there are wonderful books made especially for them that address their lives and things that are important to them.”
What drew Beach to teen work? “I really enjoy working with teens because they are excited about finding new information, and discovering different points of view.  They are so generous with their time and are happy to share with each other,” she said. “Reading has entertained and educated me.  It has enriched my life in so many ways.  I can think of no better way to spend my time than to help young people find that for themselves, as well.”

John Waller
Waller has been with the library system for 13 1/2 years. What motivates him to work with teens? In his words: “I think the underlying motivation for what we, and all of the Youth Services librarians here at PLYMC, do comes from a simple truth: that reading changes lives! The young readers of today become the adult readers of tomorrow, and if we can help one teen connect with that one special book that speaks to him or her, then it’s all worth it. 
“The irony is that we often need to utilize non-literary tools, such as technology, games and parties, to get teens into the library, but the end goal is always about reading.
“We are fortunate to work in a field that truly has meaning and value, and the bottom line is that we do this because we care about teens and want to help them however we can to find meaning and value in their own lives.  Plus, it’s fun!”

MVCIRA Award is About Literacy
President-elect Gavalier explained that her the MVCIRA aims to celebrate organizations which promote literacy and the award presented to the teen librarians was about honoring the commitment of the Library’s TeenXTreme program in promoting literacy.
Waller noted: “To be given this award by a group that exists specifically to celebrate the members’ love of reading and their efforts to spread that love is truly an honor. The fact that the award is named after Dr. Susan Leone, a woman who dedicated her life to the very things we believe in, makes it an especially poignant one. We certainly don’t do our work to receive awards, but it is nice to be recognized, for sure.  That being said, in my mind we’re accepting this award on behalf of all of the excellent librarians at PLYMC who work with young adults.”