The School Library Media Specialist of the Year Award was first presented in 1979 by MASL’s antecedent organization, the Maine Educational Media Association. Walter Taranko, the Coordinator of School Library Services at the Department of Education/Maine State Library, had an integral role in guiding and shaping this annual celebration of school library excellence. Walt was a friend of school librarians; mentoring new school librarians, helping to clarify their roles in schools, and streamlining the certification process. He was a strong advocate for having certified school librarians in all schools. Walter was the driving force in bringing the Clarion University and the University of South Carolina library programs to the state. Many of the librarians in Maine are beneficiaries of these programs.
In 2000, just a year before his untimely death from cancer, the Maine Association of School Libraries renamed this award in Walt’s honor. MASL presented the first Walter J. Taranko Library Media Specialist of the Year Award to Dr. Tamara Blesh at the 2000 Maine Libraries Conference held in Augusta, Maine. We are thankful for Walter’s presence that day, and each time we celebrate the meaningful contributions of School Librarians in Maine.