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Tillery Lauded as Library Champion of the Year

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Community members gathered at the Altama Museum of Art and History on Thursday as Georgia State Librarian and Associate Vice Chancellor of the University System of Georgia Julie Walker presented Senator Blake Tillery with the Public Library Champion of the Year award. “One of the things I love most about our agency is traveling and awarding people with this award every year,” Walker explained. “Library Champion of the Year is probably our most important award because these are people who are recognized for contributing to the libraries, and making sure that every community in Georgia has a wonderful, upto- date library that serves everybody in every community.”

Walker told attendees that this award is highly sought after, as individuals from around the state are nominated annually. These nominations are reviewed by a committee which ultimately decides the recipient. She shared that Tillery had multiple nominations, making him stand out among other nominees.

“It was a really easy choice,” Walker noted. “Senator Tillery, when I am up at the Capitol, is an incredibly busy man. The demands on him are amazing, but he remains one of the driving forces in the legislature for prioritizing public libraries over the years, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, when he was instrumental in gaining funding for more materials in all 411 libraries throughout the state.”

She read a few selected nominations for Tillery to exemplify the admiration his community has for his work: “He understands and champions the value for libraries in every community. With many and varied funding priorities to consider, he never forgets the value for libraries, particularly in rural communities, and works to ensure that Georgia’s libraries have the funding they need to continue their vital and excellent work in serving their communities.”

Walker informed the public of Tillery’s role in the local library in Vidalia, where most recently, he helped the library board navigate the budget process to create funding to renovate the Vidalia Branch of the Ohoopee Regional Library System into a 21st Century library. Tillery also helped to reduce the operating costs of the Ladson Genealogical Library, which is one of the largest genealogical libraries in the United States. On given days, Tillery may be found visiting public libraries in his district, where he often reads to children, lends a hand to staff, and interacts with his constituents. “Blake Tillery is much more than the Public Library Champion of the Year,” Ohoopee Regional Library System Director Cameron Asbell commented. “He is a visionary leader who challenges us all to evaluate our roles and to strive to make a difference in our community. He is a compassionate politician who listens to his constituents and bases his actions on equality and integrity.” She added, “He is a humble man who will drive by and stop to help an old friend do lawn work at the library on a Sunday afternoon. He is someone who genuinely loves his community, and his community loves him.”

Asbell shared that the thing that impressed her most with Tillery was his concern for those he represents. “Every time I see Blake, the first thing he says is, ‘What can I do for you?’ I’m sure he asks everyone that, but I have always been impressed with him because he doesn’t just ask—he does,” she remarked. “He has always gone above and beyond, and he has helped libraries all over the state get their resources.”

In commenting on the award, Tillery noted, “The new library across the street has $3 billion of state funding. It didn’t come from me; it came from you,” he told the public. “I don’t get to spend any money; it’s your money. I am just able to help because you all were so kind to put me in that position. The award really doesn’t belong to me. We are not spending money that Blake Tillery put in, but money that the people of the state of Georgia put in. Thank you for putting me in a position to be able to do that.”

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