MLA Papakhian Award Winners

Jerry McBride, Papakhian award winner. Photo credit: James Procell

At its annual meeting in March 2023, the Music Library Association presented the A. Ralph Papakhian Special Achievement Award to Jerry McBride for his courage and acumen, placing MLA on stronger financial footing. This award is long overdue. Jerry was MLA president when the organization took a challenging financial hit in 2010. Individuals and institutions were still dealing with the effects of a recession, and it was because of the losses we incurred that Jerry initiated the bold but controversial move to restructure MLA’s finances, notably to build our reserves to be able to withstand cancellation of an annual meeting, a significant source of income. The decision to stop offering honoraria for many positions was a prudent one to make and it required courage and fortitude to implement.

The real benefits of Jerry’s actions have come in the two years after our 2020 Norfolk meeting when the world was upended by COVID. Despite the cancellation of two in-person annual meetings, one on short notice, MLA has remained financially viable. We have operated with surpluses and have been reassured, knowing that our endowed MLA Fund has been available as a cushion. Without Jerry’s courageous actions, MLA would be in a very different financial condition. We owe a great debt of gratitude to Jerry McBride for bravely persisting where it would have been easy to change course amid controversy.

According to Jerry, “MLA was a constant source of support and assistance throughout my career as a Music Librarian. There are so many memorable moments from the chapter and national meetings. I still vividly remember my first MLA national meeting in 1980 in San Antonio because of the passion that MLA members expressed as they worked through the major changes in the transition from AACR1 to AACR2. I’m very grateful for the recognition of this award. No one achieves anything solely by oneself. The work to put MLA in a strong financial position was done with the support of the other Board members and many members of MLA who understood and supported what needed to be done to ensure MLA’s future as a sound and vibrant organization. This award is really for all of them also.”

Sylvia Yang, Papakhian award winner (left) with MLA president Liza Vick. Photo credit: James Procell

MLA also presented the 2023 A. Ralph Papkhian Special Achievement Award to Sylvia Yang, who is recognized as a positive, creative force in MLA, par excellence. During the last few years, she has surpassed her considerably high bar, in her service as Assistant Convention Manager. Amid the COVID lockdown (that coincided with the beginning of her term) she and our Convention Manager fluidly moved our conference to Zoom and Remo virtual platforms (in one case, quite suddenly). But where Sylvia excelled in particular, was in hosting the social receptions online with not only flexibility but with innovative grace and fluency, and handling technological infelicities with aplomb. This in turn created ease and a sense of gracious hosting in a platform that many found initially off-putting. The normal convention workload is considerable and adding these last-minute tasks to her portfolio makes one wonder when she slept. Yet her positivity and enthusiasm never faltered.

As if this were not enough, this past year, Sylvia has served as not only chair of the Equity and Inclusion Subcommittee, but also as temporary Chair of Diversity Committee (now merged, but formerly two very busy committees). She took over rather unexpectedly and served for more than six months in both capacities, in addition to reorganizing these into the unified IDEA Committee and to her Assistant Convention Manager duties. All of these jobs are considerably challenging, time intensive, and as part of theSubcommittee duties, she is coordinator of the 2022 Climate Survey Task Force and of our conference Dependent Care program. Yet another role she has executed with verve and panache.

Says Sylvia, “I am so honored to have been awarded the A. Ralph Papakhian Special Achievement Award. The Music Library Association has been critical in my development as a music librarian and I’m so thankful that I get to help shape the annual meeting in my role as conventional manager. Hope to see you all in Cincinnati!”