By Kenny Walter
LONG BRANCH- It took only three years for Tonya Garcia to ascend to the top of her profession.
Garcia, the Long Branch Public Library Director, was recently awarded by the New Jersey Library Association (NJLA) as Librarian of the Year.
“Every year the NJLA takes a librarian out of their membership and recognizes them for their contributions to the professions,” Garcia said. “When I got the phone call, I was completely overwhelmed.
“I remember sitting at my desk after hanging up the phone and sitting there for a long time. I was in awe that I was even considered.”
According to Garcia, the nominees are nominated by peers and the winner is voted on by a NJLA Committee, as well as the previous three winners of the award. She said she was notified of the award in April and honored with the award at the annual NJLA conference in Atlantic City in May.
Garcia has been the main librarian in Long Branch for three years, but has worked in the library for the last 13 years.
Garcia said the award means a lot because she has been inspired by past winners.
“For me, I had watched so many of my own mentors and people who I had admired so much the past 12 years who I have been attending the conference with, win this award,” she said. “When they called me, I was like ‘me? Are you sure?’
“It was overwhelming but it is something that I think I am most proud of in my career.”
Garcia was also honored by the Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders last week, who made June 23 “Tonya Garcia Day” in Monmouth County.
“That was completely surreal,” she said. “It was really genuine.
“When they presented the award and said Tonya Garcia Day it was just so surreal.”
Garcia also credited the entire Long Branch and Elberon library staffs.
“Of course the staff is overjoyed, they are a very large part as where I’m at in my career,” she said. “I have an amazing staff here at the library.”
According to Garcia, the role of the library has changed and grown over the past few years.
“We had our busiest years the last few years here at the library, we average about 10,000 visits a month,” she said. “We are extremely busy, we’ve launched a lot of new initiatives here with grants that are going on.
“We are the community anchor but a lot of that is that we provide services that are so necessary. Books are still extremely popular but it is definitely more service based with our social work initiative and our job search program.”
Garcia serves as the director of both the main branch at 328 Broadway and the Elberon branch located at 168 Lincoln Avenue. For more information on the Long Branch Library, visit http://www.longbranchlib.org/.