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Another Opening, Another Show and Another Opportunity to Apply for an AASL Award September 17, 2013

Posted by Susan Ballard in Awards, Check this out!.
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As everyone gears up for another fantastic school year, AASL hopes that members will consider applying for an AASL award to help demonstrate to your community that school librarians and effective school library programs have a positive impact on teaching and learning.

In particular, members will have recently received an email from AASL regarding the National School Library Program of the Year award (NSLPY) sponsored by Follett which indicates that the award criteria and application have been reviewed and updated.  AASL has just posted working documents that can be accessed and reviewed in advance of the official revamped application which will launch in several weeks http://www.ala.org/aasl/awards/nslpy.

Now is the perfect time to begin exploring the process and to further encourage you, over the next three weeks, we are going to share observations from the 2013 award-recipients – Kay Wejrowski from Swan Valley High School, Saginaw MI; Jennifer Jamison, Pennsylvania Avenue School, Atlantic City, NJ; and Lauren Kniola, New Augusta South Elementary School, Indianapolis, IN.

First up is Kay with remarks made at the AASL Awards Luncheon held July 1, at ALA Annual in Chicago, IL.  Kay’s program is an inspiration for those who think you must have a perfect Architectural Digest-type environment – remember it’s the people and the content that counts as Swan Valley’s original application noted – “Our bookends don’t match. Most of the furniture in our library is from the seventies. And yes, we still have some giant box computer monitors. But the patrons in our library don’t even notice. What they do see, however, is a safe place where their questions are answered, their thirst for knowledge is quenched, and their educational, and often social and personal needs, are met.”

The NSLPY Award recognizes school library programs that meet the needs of the changing school and library environment. Exemplary school library programs ensure that the students and staff are effective users of ideas and information. These programs empower learners to be critical thinkers, enthusiastic readers, skillful researchers and ethical users of information. We know there are more of you out there – step up and start the process now!

AASL School Library Program of the Year - Kay Wejrowski

Thank you, American Association of School Librarians and Follett for the great honor today.  Just before the school year ended this spring, Sarah, one of our seniors, said to me, “I can’t believe that I’m graduating . . . I can remember when I was an 8th grader and how I was so afraid of coming to the high school. I remember coming to orientation and telling my mentor how scared I was.”

Sarah told me that the senior who was head of her visitation group reassured her, “You will do just fine in high school. If you get lost, or don’t know what you’re supposed to do, or can’t find your way, just go to the library. They’ll tell you what to do and help you with whatever you need.”

And Sarah said that advice got her to where she is now. What a great testimonial . . . That as long as you can find the library, you’ll be OK.  I can’t take credit for that. The credit for that to happen goes to many people, from our administration, represented here today by Principal Mat McRae, Assistant Principal Kevin Moore, Superintendent Dave Moore, and Board President Jim Stevenson, who worked together to keep our library open in difficult economic times, to our staff, who, on a daily basis, collaborate with our library to create top-notch literacy and technology programs, and who don’t run the other way when they see me coming with yet another hair brained idea. The credit also goes to our parents and community members, including my husband, Gary, and family, who provide generous support, both financially and with their time and talents. And most importantly, to our students, who empower us, and one another, to continually improve.

As we all know, if you want great programs, you surround yourself with great people. Included in our great list of supporters is MAME, our state library organization, the Library of Michigan and Michigan eLibrary, the Michigan Humanities Council and National Endowment for the Humanities, the Saginaw Arts & Enrichment Commission, Michigan Council for Arts & Cultural Affairs, United Way, and our local businesses and foundations. Our success is reliant upon their leadership and support.

The American Association of School Librarians, along with ALA and Follett, have challenged us to create a culture of readers who are responsible and embrace a love of learning, and then developed a model for us to achieve that goal. AASL’s formula for combining dispositions with the skills that we teach, identifying responsibilities, and providing self-assessments only makes us work harder to improve.

Perhaps AASL’s greatest asset, however, is the people who comprise this remarkable group. The collaboration and mentoring that AASL leaders provide at conferences such as this, and through online communications and publications, is invaluable. The guidance, from the front office, to influential innovators in the field, is instrumental in creating libraries that transition with emerging technologies and curriculum.  Two years ago, at AASL in Minneapolis, Susan Ballard gave me some advice, and I followed it. Last year, on a shuttle bus back to the airport in Anaheim, Judi Repman handed me her business card and said, “Gail Dickinson and I expect to hear from you.” Correspondence since that time has expanded opportunities for our library, and our entire community.

Our principal’s mantra has always been, “It is people, not programs.” If you take nothing else from this conference, take advantage of the fact that the people who are here, from the ALA and AASL staff, to the sponsors, vendors, presenters, and librarians from across the country, are all here to promote literacy and help our libraries transform to meet the ever-changing needs of the communities we serve.

I would be remiss if I didn’t recognize the partnership role that Follett has taken to provide us a state of the art library automation system, the latest and greatest resources, and opportunities for growth, with the Follett Challenge.

On behalf of Swan Valley High School, and our entire Swan Valley community, I want to extend our sincerest gratitude to all the sponsors here today, to the Awards Committee, and to AASL and Follett for your continued leadership and support, and for this award.

Thank you.

Next week, we’ll share thoughts from Jennifer Jamison.  Stay tuned!

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