Joyce Cunningham Award


This award is given to a Public Library Board [or two Public Library Boards that participated in a collaborative effort] that has demonstrated a high level of collaboration and innovation to produce outstanding results. 

To apply: Complete the online nomination form by November 15
For questions or more information, contact

To view more information on eligibility and nomination procedures
To view past recipients


A high-performance Public Library Board can be defined as a group of people with specific roles and complementary talents and skills, aligned with and committed to a common purpose, and who consistently show high levels of collaboration and innovation to produce superior results.
A high performance Public Library Board is regarded as tight knit, focused on their goal, and have supportive processes that will enable any board member to surmount any barriers in achieving the board's goals.  Within the team, individual board members are highly skilled and are able to interchange their roles.  Also, leadership within the team is not vested in a single individual; instead the leadership role is taken up by various team members, according to the need at that moment in time


Some common characteristics leading to success are:
  • Participative leadership: using a democratic leadership style that involves and engages board members to form an effective team
  • Effective decision-making:using a blend of rational and intuitive decision making methods, depending on that nature of the decision task
  • Open and clear communication:ensuring that the team mutually constructs shared meaning, using effective communication methods and channels
  • Valued diversity:valuing a diversity of experience and background in team, contributing to a diversity of viewpoints, leading to better decision making and solutions
  • Mutual trust:trusting in the board as an entity, and developing mutual trust between library staff and the board
  • Managing conflict:dealing with conflict openly, transparently and in a timely manner so as to uphold team morale
  • Clear goals: developing goals using SMART* criteria; each goal must have personal meaning and resonance for each team member, building commitment and engagement
  • Defined roles and responsibilities:each board member understands what they must do (and what they must not do) to demonstrate their commitment to the team and to support team success
  • Coordinative relationship:ensuring the bonds between the board members allow them to seamlessly coordinate their work to achieve both efficiency and effectiveness
  • Positive atmosphere:developing an overall team culture that is open, transparent, positive, future-focused and able to deliver success
  • Specific – target a specific area for improvement.
  • Measurable – quantify or at least suggest an indicator of progress.
  • Assignable – specify who will do it.
  • Realistic – state what results can realistically be achieved, given available resources.
  • Time-related – specify when the result(s) can be achieved.


2020 Award Recipient


Guelph Public Library Board

This award is being presented in recognition of the Guelph Public Library Board’s tenacity over many years, and its steadfast advocacy on behalf of the community.  They made the case, over and over, year in and year out, rooting the arguments in the community’s right to a library space that welcomes all and enables every member of the community to achieve their full potential. During this time, there have been six new board appointments and four new CEOs. No doubt there has been as many changes on the municipal front.  Throughout every one of these changes, the Library Board has maximized every opportunity to educate and advocate for a new library. And because of that advocacy, and the slow, incremental building of political will, and public support, the new downtown library has finally been approved and will be built. In the words of current board chair, Lisa Maslove, “this is a historic investment that will yield economic and social returns for decades to come … It’s also an opportunity to protect that sense of belonging and pride in our city that we all feel, and we want to pass on to others and preserve.” Anne Marie Madziak, Southern Ontario Library Service

2019 Award Recipient 


Vaughan Public Library Board

Vaughan Public Library (VPL) Board is composed of passionate, committed and highly creative individuals who share a belief that public libraries play a fundamental role in shaping, building and enhancing communities.  The VPL Board of 2015-2018 quickly morphed into a cohesive unit where decisions are reached after engagement in healthy, respectful debate among trustees.  Differing ideas are heard, acknowledged and considered before decisions are confirmed.  Under the strong leadership of Board Chair Devender Sandhu, a visionary strategic plan was created which ensures VPL remained responsive to the community, evolving as required. SMART goals and outcome measurements were established to measure success.The Board embraced and inspired innovation through the establishment of three creations spaces. Individually, trustees monitored library innovations and during their international travels, return to enthusiastically sharing observations with fellow trustees.  The Board was tenacious in pursuing an aggressive building plan which has resulted in the opening of 3 new facilities, planning and designing 3 additional new libraries currently under construction, and designing another to begin construction 2020!  This Board has embraced trust and accountability and implemented an effective self-evaluation process. The goal of this Board is uncompromised, to Enrich Inspire and Transform. This Board is achieving just that! Margie Singleton, Vaughan Public Library