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Community engagement librarian receives national honor for excellence in service to LGBTQIA+ community

February 20, 2019

The American Library Association’s Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Round Table has named Donna Coghill, the community engagement librarian and coordinator of campus partnerships at VCU Libraries, as the recipient of the Newlen-Symons Award for Excellence in Serving the GLBT Community.

The award recognizes a library, librarian, library staff member, library board and/or library friends group who serve the GLBT community. Nominees are judged based on innovation, impact, sustainability and advocacy.

“Donna’s continuing efforts to create safe spaces for LGBTQIA+ students and staff, opportunities for staff to engage in diversity initiatives at the library and campuswide, advocacy efforts for greater inclusivity, and ongoing work to train VCU and off-campus police in LGBTQIA+ safety training are just some of the ways in which she has made the LGBTQIA+ community at VCU not only welcome, but truly a part of the community,” Ana Elisa de Campos Salles, chair of the ALA’s Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Round Table, said in a news release. “The award jury was deeply impressed with her years of dedication, advocacy, engagement and the extent of her important work.”

Coghill has long been an active voice for equality, diversity and change. She participated in the development of VCU's diversity plan, served on the VCU Alumni Board of Directors, was chair and a charter member of Single Volunteers of Richmond and was as a member of the Family Lifeline Youth Advisory Board. On campus, Donna is a VCU Green Zone volunteer, a facilitator for the VCU Safe Zone program, a member of Equality VCU, and serves on the VCU Police Department's LGBTQ+ Safety Advisory Group.

In her role at VCU Libraries, Coghill serves as liaison to VCU’s Division of Community Engagement and the Division of Strategic Enrollment Management. She also works with high schools and non-VCU researchers in need of access to collections and services. In addition, she provides research and teaching services for service-learning courses, as well as outreach support for living-learning programs, and teaches library instruction sessions and supports the research goals of VCU's undergraduates.

“Advocacy is not a solo project,” Coghill said. “I am fortunate to have greatly benefited from the strong foundation of LGBTQIA initiatives on campus, led by Sarah Watstein, a former supervisor at VCU Libraries, and Chris Burnside, my former freshman dance professor. In 2012, I was honored to receive the Equality VCU Burnside Watstein LGBTQ Award, named after these extraordinary people whose work continues to make a difference on campus.”

“Additionally,” she said, “I’ve been inspired and supported by numerous colleagues both on-and-off-campus. I hope that one day I, too, might be an inspiration to the next generation of LGBTQIA allies and advocates at VCU and within the greater Richmond community.”  

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