Georgia Public Library Service has named DeKalb County chief executive officer Michael L. Thurmond Library Champion of the Year in the 2023 Georgia Public Library Awards. The Awards honor public libraries and their champions who have made a profound difference in their communities.
“Strong public libraries are essential to a prosperous state, and this year’s honorees showcase the vital role that public libraries play in post-pandemic recovery, competitiveness, and resilience throughout Georgia,” said Vice Chancellor for Archives and Libraries and State Librarian Julie Walker. “Our public libraries are a model of collaboration, innovation, and excellence.”
Thurmond was recognized for his role in DeKalb County Public Library’s post-pandemic recovery.
“Michael Thurmond’s multifaceted support for the library, from recognizing the unique, hard work of staff; securing vital funding and resources; and advocating for employee wellbeing, truly sets him apart as a Georgia Public Library Champion of the Year. His influence is not only felt today but will leave a lasting legacy for years to come,” said Alison Weissinger, director of DeKalb County Public Library.
Thurmond is known for his lifelong dedication to serving the public. In 1986, he became the first African American from Clarke County elected to the Georgia General Assembly. He received a gubernatorial appointment to serve as director of the state’s Division of Family and Children Services in 1994. Thurmond was elected Georgia labor commissioner in 1998 and served three terms. He later served as superintendent of the DeKalb County School District from 2013 – 2015 and was elected CEO of DeKalb County in 2016 and reelected in 2020.
Thurmond has supported the DeKalb County Public Library throughout his tenure as CEO of DeKalb County. Some examples include:
During the pandemic, Thurmond recognized the library as an essential department by enacting frontline pay for all library employees.
Thurmond also helped to secure funding and resources to support the library’s shift to curbside services including the extension of Wi-Fi to the library’s parking lot for workers and students.
“Mr. Thurmond made clear the importance of the library to the lives of everyone in DeKalb, especially those hardest hit with the shutdown. In fact, the library was one of the first departments to reopen, other than those involved with public safety and infrastructure,” said Weissinger.
Thurmond is an avid reader and author of three nonfiction books of history including “Freedom: Georgia’s Antislavery Heritage, 1733 – 1865,” which was awarded the Georgia Historical Society’s Lilla Hawes Award. His latest book on the life of James Oglethorpe is scheduled for publication in February 2024.
Honorees will be celebrated in local ceremonies in early 2024. To read more about all Georgia Public Library Award recipients, visit the Georgia Public Library Service website.