Richmond native Ruth Gaylord, a nominee of the University of Kentucky Libraries and the School of Library and Information Sciences (SLIS) in the College of Communications and Information Studies, has been named a recipient of a 2006 Torch of Excellence Award.
The Lyman T. Johnson Alumni Constituent Group takes nominations from each college annually for both the Torch of Excellence Awards and Torch Bearer Awards. The Torch of Excellence honors alumni who have succeeded nationally, statewide and locally.
Those honorees then “pass on” their faith, determination, hard work and academic excellence to current undergraduate students who have shown those same qualities. The undergraduate students then become “torchbearers” for their colleges.
The Libraries and the SLIS have been honored to be able to participate in the Lyman T. Johnson awards so that the stories of important Kentucky librarians can be told, said Dean of UK Libraries Carol Diedrichs and SLIS Director Tim Sineath upon learning of Gaylord’s award recognition.
The award was presented earlier this month to Gaylord, a UK alumna, at the Lyman T. Johnson Alumni Constituent Group’s 16th annual Homecoming Awards Banquet at Lexington’s Radisson Plaza Hotel.
Multidisciplinary artist and scholar Frank X Walker was the guest speaker at the awards banquet honoring this year’s winners.
Gaylord earned her master’s of science in library science from UK in 1984. She joined Lexington Public Library upon graduation from UK. She was the first full-time black professional librarian with Lexington Public Library.
Gaylord graduated from Richmond High School in 1956 prior to the integration of the school system and earned her bachelor’s degree in sociology from Berea College in 1962.
After moving to Lexington and working as a substitute teacher, Gaylord was intrigued by a Lexington Public Library position listed in the classifieds, remembering how she felt not welcome in her town’s library as a child. Curiosity and faith led her to apply for a bookmobile driver position at the Black and Williams Cultural Center in 1977. The bookmobile, known then as the “InMobile,” served Lexington's inner city neighborhoods.
Because Gaylord could not drive the stick-shift bus, the library hired another driver whom she accompanied as the “InMobile” visited neighborhoods and day care centers. Gaylord provided story hours for the children and worked with them at the center.
Gaylord entered UK’s Library Science program two years later, and for the next five years she worked full time, cared for and eventually lost her critically ill husband, raised four children and worked on her degree as a part-time student.
After graduating, Gaylord moved into a full-time professional librarian position at Lexington Public Library. She worked at the Northside Branch and at the Central Library. She currently serves as the assistant manager at Lexington’s Eagle Creek Branch. Gaylord remains the only black librarian employed at the Lexington Public Library.
Her nomination letter from Kathleen Imhoff, director of the Lexington Public Library, notes the positive relationship Gaylord has with both her staff and the public and acknowledges the special effort Gaylord puts forth to include everybody because she wants people “not to be afraid to come in.”