Now is the perfect time to think about going for one of the AASL awards. School is almost over everywhere. (Some of you have only a few days left.) You have the benefit of more free time over summer to choose the best award for you and get your application organized. Most of them will be due February 1, 2019. In past blogs, I have alluded to applying for awards as a way to get noticed for what you do. For those of you who are still unsure about putting yourself forward as a leader, this is a potential first step.
Joining has so many benefits – developmental, social, and even financial. For example, everyone needs to own the new National School Library Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries. The hefty price tag of $199 is reduced to a far more reasonable $99 if you are a member of ALA/AASL, and first-year membership costs $119. So for an additional $19 you get your membership and the standards.
Going back to the awards options, AASL offers a number of awards and grants and, with some preparation, one will fit with what you are doing. My favorite grant, for several reasons, is the Ruth Toor Grant for Strong Public School Libraries. Some of you may know that for more than 30 years Ruth and I co-authored 14 books for school librarians, the last three for ALA Editions. We also wrote and edited The School Librarian’s Workshop, a bi-monthly newsletter, which eventually lead to a growing, supportive Facebook group over 7,000 strong.
The Ruth Toor Grant for Strong Public School Libraries is sponsored by Ruth’s husband, Jay Toor and speaks to something Ruth, and I, have always been passionate about – creating a public awareness/marketing campaign promoting the school library program as a necessary resource. The grant winner gets $3,000 to carry out the campaign. Another $2,000 goes to the librarian and an administrator (or volunteer parent) to attend an AASL or ALA conference. It is not one of the simplest grants to apply for, so I recommend it for an established librarian. It is a fairly large grant, and you should build in many opportunities for widespread coverage of whatever event is part of your campaign. Whether you get the grant or not – do what you can to carry out the campaign you create (you may be able to find some local funding if you need it) and get you and your program recognition from the administration.
Have you and a teacher worked together on a learning opportunity that was highly successful? One where students created new information and were thoroughly engaged? If so, you are ready to apply for the Collaborative School Library Award, which is not nearly as complicated. The winner of this award, sponsored by Upstart, receives $2,500. If you start putting this together now, be mindful that the criteria refer to meet standards in Empowering Learners. I am sure it will soon be updated to require using the National School Library Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries (see, another reason you need a copy of this!)
If your successful collaborative unit is about Social Justice, look at the criteria for the Roald Dahl Miss Honey Social Justice Award. Your project should “expose social injustice while at the same time inspiring … students to repair the world through justice, service, or advocacy.” Possible themes are genocide, civil liberties, and local issues on the topic. The winner of the award, sponsored by Penguin Random House, receives $2,000. Additionally, there is up to $1,000 reimbursement for travel to attend the AASL Awards at the ALA Annual Conference – and a $5,000 book donation from Penguin Random House. That will boost your collection – and put your program in your administration’s spotlight.
The $2,500 Innovative Reading Grant, sponsored by Capstone, is for a unique program, motivating reading, particularly among struggling readers. Up to four grants are available for the Inspire Collection Development Grant, sponsored by Marina “Marnie” Welmars. The grants go to middle or high school librarians (grades 5-12) in public schools with 85% or more of the students qualifying for Free/Reduced Lunch Program.
The most challenging award to apply for and the one requiring the most developed programs is the National School Library Program of the Year. Sponsored by Follett, it is meant to showcase exemplary programs. As such, they 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.” Winners receive $10,000 and a lot of attention, starting when finalists get visits from the award committee. If you want to tackle this award, you will not only need to start early but, as the guideline suggests, do check the rubric. (Also use the National School Library Standards, not the old standards.)
Look over these awards and grant and see which one you might win with an investment of time and a bit of risk-taking. There is a link to the past/current winning entry for each of them so you can see what was previously submitted and impressed the judges. Consider emailing the librarian if you have questions. Next year you could be honored at the AASL Awards luncheon.