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Lisa Varga MLS’98 is Library Journal’s 2024 Librarian of the Year
Varga recognized for battling censorship attempts with “hard facts and heart.”
Lisa Varga

Rutgers SC&I is proud to announce that alumna Lisa Varga MLS’98 is Library Journal’s Librarian of the Year for 2024. Varga, who learned of this honor in December 2023, is the Executive Director at the Virginia Library Association (VLA), a nonprofit organization that supports the profession of librarianship in the Commonwealth of Virginia. “This is the highlight of my career as far as awards go,” she noted, saying that the fact that her colleagues nominated her made her selection all the sweeter.

In announcing Varga as this year’s recipient, Library Journal noted, “There are many library advocates doing necessary and critical work right now; Varga’s unflagging generosity of spirit sets her apart. Because of her dedication to intellectual freedom, her conviction that the cause is always worth fighting for, and her support of fellow library defenders, Varga is LJ’s 2024 Librarian of the Year…Not only does she keep VLA running smoothly, but Varga’s active opposition to book challenges—testifying against censorship legislation, showing up to school board meetings, and empowering library advocates across the state to stand up to First Amendment threats through equal parts hard data and deep compassion—has made an enormous difference for libraries in Virginia and beyond.”

Varga, who was born in New York and raised in Monmouth County, New Jersey, graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a bachelor’s degree in creative writing, communication, and rhetoric. When she took a job with MetroWest Jewish News, a newspaper based in N.J., her work at the publication sparked an abiding interest in research. Varga’s uncle, a now-retired public librarian in Illinois, suggested she consider library science, so she looked at what Rutgers had to offer. As she read through SC&I’s graduate program course descriptions, she realized that the field of study aligned perfectly with her personality and interests. She enrolled in the program and completed her internship with The Providence Journal-Bulletin (Providence, Rhode Island), now The Providence Journal. After earning her Master of Library and Information Studies degree at SC&I (renamed the Master of Information), Varga worked for a copyright and trademark firm for several years, moving next to the Central Rappahannock Regional Library in Virginia, and then to the Virginia Library Association, where she’s been serving as their executive director since 2011.

In addition to running the VLA from her home in Virginia Beach, Va., Varga is also a member of the American Library Association (ALA) Policy Corps, focusing specifically on ALA’s Unite Against Book Bans initiative. In a hyperlocal turn of events, Varga acted as VLA’s representative in an obscenity case against certain books filed in Virginia Beach Circuit Court. She attended her local school board meeting with an invoice for $7 million representing the time one member’s book challenges wasted in tax dollars. Using an idea she borrowed from New Jersey librarian and fellow Rutgers SC&I alumna Martha Hickson MLIS’05 RC’82, Varga promoted the VLA Challenged Book Résumé Collaboration, a resource for librarians that involves a shared database for commonly challenged books.

Commenting on what motivates her to put her heart and soul into her work (both paid and volunteer), Varga said, “A small but powerful segment of our society is trying to break trust in public education and public institutions. Most people agree that libraries benefit the community in many ways that go beyond the obvious—they provide workforce development, tax services, and materials for seniors and individuals with vision and hearing impairments. The attempts to destroy libraries because they share books that address people’s different lived experiences and foster empathy in children are frightening. The fear of ‘the other’ and the incredible lengths people will go to censor titles is staggering. The banning wars do a lot of damage to the way people view libraries and have put librarians in difficult positions. We must discuss this and fight against it.”

Learn more about the Library and Information Science Department and the Master of Information at the Rutgers School of Communication and Information on the website


Photo caption: SC&I alum Lisa Varga MLS’98 is Library Journal’s Librarian of the Year for 2024

Photo credit: Misty Prewitt, Misty Saves the Day, for Library Journal

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