Winning a Dartmouth Medal: The Recognition of a Lifetime

4 min read

| By Rebecca Parks |

Winner, winner, chicken dinner!
While I can’t tell you the origin of that phrase (something about casinos giving away chicken dinners in the 1970s?), I can tell you how I feel when I yell it at the moment of victory: utter exhilaration!

And that was how I felt when I learned that my title, the Global Encyclopedia of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) History, had won the Dartmouth Medal at the Reference and User Services Association (RUSA) Book and Media Awards during the American Library Association Midwinter conference on January 26, 2020. Of course, “my” title is really “our” title—the collective effort of literally hundreds of scholars from around the world, including an eight-strong editorial board with an embarrassing amount of talent who ensured that the coverage would be as diverse as our contributors. Couple this with Gale product managers Jessica Bomarito and Hélène Potter, who helped us keep our eyes on the prize, and you have a superteam.

And the LGBTQ encyclopedia wasn’t the only Gale title in the metaphorical spotlight! Disability Experiences, a product concept developed by Laurie Malashanko and helmed by Carol Schwartz, earned a Dartmouth Honorable Mention, while the second edition of Infectious Diseases, captained by Tracie Moy under the guidance of Jessica Bomarito, was recognized as a RUSA Outstanding Reference Source. So would that be “winner, winner, winner, chicken dinner”? You know it! Chicken for everyone!

As reference editors, the Dartmouth is the be-all and end-all of our profession, but the reference industry’s top prize is as elusive as it is prestigious. So we can’t be in this business for the hardware. We’re in it because we love learning, working with academics, and telling stories that happen to be true.

And that’s what these titles are all about: connecting people’s stories to larger issues to help all of us learn about each other and our world. Disability Experiences, for example, is about the first-person accounts of people’s experiences with disabilities, be they physical, cognitive, or psychological, while many of the entries in Infectious Diseases include a primary source section that provides a real-life glimpse into the impact of a disease or medical issue. My title is full of stories of activists who challenged the heteronormative society in which they lived—sometimes paying a terrible price for their stand.

Diversity, inclusivity, and social justice themes run strong through all three titles, starting with a mandate to go beyond the U.S. border to chart what’s happening in countries on every continent. You want to know what it’s like to grow up deaf in a small town in India? Learn about Madan Vasishta’s 2006 memoir, Deaf in Delhi, in Disability Experiences. Want to learn how the fight against HIV/AIDS is progressing in Africa? Check out the “Developing Nations and Drug Delivery” entry in Infectious Diseases. And if you’ve ever wondered why homosexuality is banned while sex-change operations are supported in Iran, then you need to read the entry “Transgendered Subjectivities in Contemporary Iran” in the Global Encyclopedia of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) History. I guarantee you’ll come away with a broader understanding of the world around you.

And that, my friends, is finger-lickin’ good!

To learn more about Gale’s 2020 Dartmouth Medal win, read the news release.

Meet the Author

Rebecca Parks has been a content developer at Gale since 1997, where she has worked on a variety of projects, including LitFinder and several series devoted to literary criticism. She loves books of all kinds and never gets tired of talking about them with fellow bibliophiles.

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