Two visionary AASL members win AASL Thinkfinity Zmuda challenge

For Immediate Release
Fri, 09/03/2010


Melissa Jacobsen

CHICAGO – During the American Association of School Librarian's (AASL) President's Program at the ALA 2010 Annual Conference, representatives from Verizon Foundation's digital learning platform, Thinkfinity, set a spur-of-the-moment challenge to attendees. In response to program speaker Allison Zmuda's call to action, Thinkfinity invited attendees to share their ideas on how school librarians can help students acquire 21st-century skills. Two winning ideas, submitted by AASL members Susan Ballard and Sophie Brookover, will each receive a $5,000 incentive from Verizon Thinkfinity.

Ballard is a director of library media and technology at Londonderry School District in Londonberry, N.H. Her idea, ENGage with the Library – Your byline, online, creates an opportunity for school librarians to collaborate with content, journalism and radio/TV production teachers, school newspaper staffs and student broadcasters. The collaboration would allow students-at-large to contribute dynamic content to school online publications and outlets while developing 21st century skills related to electronic news gathering, or ENG.

After learning of her win, Ballard, whose district received the 2001 National School Library Program of the Year award, said of the grant money, "Everyone here is so excited to be able to bring this idea to life. We thank Allison Zmuda for the inspiration, and Verizon Thinkfinity for their generous support. Stay tuned - as the Free-Lancers ENGage with the library to "Think, Create, Share and Grow" we'll be back to fill you in on how this goes."

In addition to learning about the use of resources and technologies used in ENG, students will learn about guidelines and ethics that govern journalistic activities, copyright and intellectual property considerations and the concept of authority in content review. "Writing, planning and organizational skills are also incorporated in the process," explained Ballard.

After being notified by AASL leadership, Brookover, enthusiastically said, "My teachers are thrilled about the grant money! The monies will provide funding for library resources to support the topics students present, presentation strategies and guidelines."

Brookover, school librarian at Eastern Regional Senior High School in Voorhees, N.J., submitted her idea, School-wide TEDx Challenge. Explaining her project, Brookover said, "My project is to provide a framework in which students can develop 21st-century communication skills by producing a TEDx event for the school and community." The TEDxEasternHighSchool conference would build on TED's mission of "ideas worth spreading" by giving students the opportunity to share ideas and proposals in the areas of the arts, community involvement, education, science, technology and business.

Thinkfinity is an AASL Landmark Website for Teaching and Learning. The Landmark Websites are honored due to their exemplary histories of authoritative, dynamic content and curricular relevance. More information on this recognition can be found at

The American Association of School Librarians,, a division of the American Library Association (ALA), promotes the improvement and extension of library services in elementary and secondary schools as a means of strengthening the total education program. Its mission is to advocate excellence, facilitate change and develop leaders in the school library field.