Stanford Prize for Innovation in Research Libraries (SPIRL)


Stanford University Libraries offers a prize to recognize and celebrate innovation through programs, projects, and/or new or improved services that directly or indirectly benefit readers and users.  The goals of the prize are to single out for community attention and to celebrate functionally significant results of the innovative impulses in research libraries worldwide. The process of consideration for making awards is sponsored by the Stanford University Libraries (SUL).  There will be a modest prize purse, with the principal emphasis of SPIRL on identifying and applauding distinguished peers in fostering better services to the research world.


Research, national, or other libraries that support research activities.  Please note that SPIRL is not available to any of Stanford's libraries.

Judging criteria

Awards will be based on a single programmatic or project undertaking and/or a sustained culture and profile of encouraging effective and sustainable innovation; the effect of such efforts must have measurable impact on the library's own clientele as well as the potential for influencing the practices and/or standards of research librarianship generally. The notion of “innovation” need not be inherently about information technology, though it might be assumed that such technology will be employed as appropriate to achieve the programmatic ends of the institution. Nominations will be judged on the following:

  • Evidence of the effects of the program(s) on the readers/users or staff of the nominated library;
  • Nature of the innovation;
  • Potential contribution(s) of the program to research and/or service practices in other domains outside of research librarianship;
  • Sustainability of the program;
  • Potential for replication or adaptation by other research libraries.

Entries shall include

  1. Narrative description; for each submission, provide a description of your innovative project. Descriptions shall include:
    • Explanation of the library’s innovation;
    • Published mission statement of nominated institution;
    • History of development and implementation of the program in brief;
    • Intended clientele; including a brief description of the method(s) of assessing effects on clientele;
    • Principal players (staff, consultants), with brief biographical statements;
    • Functional specifications and requirements, if appropriate;
    • URLs, photos, videos, other media, if appropriate to understanding the innovation;
    • Press coverage, if appropriate;
    • User documentation, if appropriate.
  2. Nominator’s statement: Why is the nominee particularly worthy of this recognition?
  3. Listing of publications or references, if any, by the nominee that support this nomination.
  4. Letters of support and/or testimonials may be submitted by readers/users, other research libraries, and others.

Deadlines and submission procedures

  • Please note that as of December 2015, the prize is on hiatus. More information will be coming soon.
  • All entries will be submitted online. The entry form may be found here.
  • Entries must be submitted before 5:00 p.m. Pacific Standard Time (GMT -8) on 16 January 2015. The submission deadline will be strictly observed; no exceptions will be made.
  • The entire submission shall be uploaded as one PDF not to exceed 4 MB. We request that entries be composed in English.
  • Libraries may be nominated either by the institution itself or by a third party. If the nomination is made independently of the nominee institution, Stanford will solicit a statement from the head of the institution, which will be appended as part of the package for the judges’ consideration.
  • The judges will review the materials submitted as part of their review. They may gather additional information by whatever means they wish.


The librarian-members of the Stanford University Libraries Advisory Council have graciously agreed to serve as judges for the prize:

  • Elisabeth Niggemann, Chief Judge
    Generaldirektorin, Deutsche Nationalbibliothek
  • Dame Lynne Brindley
    Master of Pembroke College, Oxford
  • Charles Henry
    President, Council on Library and Information Resources
  • Richard E. Luce
    Associate Vice-President, Professor, and Dean of Libraries, University of Oklahoma
  • Ann Okerson
    Senior Advisor on Electronic Strategies, Center for Research Libraries
  • Bruno Racine
    President, Bibliothèque nationale de France
  • Dongfang Shao
    Chief, Asian Division, Library of Congress
  • Karin Wittenborg
    University Librarian, University of Virginia

The recommendations of the panel of judges will be ratified by the entire SUL Advisory Council and approved by the Stanford University Librarian, whose decision is final.  Please note that judges will recuse themselves in nominations involving their own institution.

The judges are not required to select a recipient if, in their opinion, no nomination merits the award in a given year.


The 2015 Prize will be announced by the Stanford University Librarian on or about 16 March 2015.


Contact Sonia Lee: 650-736-9538,