CHICAGO — The Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA), a division of the American Library Association (ALA), named Oakhurst Middle School in Clarksdale, Miss., as the winner of its annual Great Books Giveaway. The library will receive more than $20,000 in books, audiobooks and other materials from items publishers and producers donated to YALSA in 2010. Due to the volume of donations, YALSA was able to name two runners-up: Colleton County High School in Walterboro, S.C. took second place, and Fletcher (Okla.) Public Schools took third place. The estimated value of the entire collection is more than $40,000.
Oakhurst Middle School serves younger teens in a community where 37 percent live beneath the poverty level and the unemployment rate is 14 percent. The majority of its student body reads at least two levels below grade level; 65 percent of its nonfiction collection has a shelf age of more than 15 years. In her application, Oakhurst librarian Judith Gist noted that calling her students “reluctant readers is an understatement,” citing the aged collection as a major hindrance.
“Words can’t express the joy, the excitement and gratitude we feel for receiving this wonderful gift,” said Gist. “This enables us to completely revitalize our small library. It would take us more than six years to be able to acquire such a collection — it’s an ongoing struggle to get young teens motivated to read, and even more difficult with materials that are out of date. Receiving such a large influx of contemporary books is a wonderful blessing.”
Colleton County High School’s library is home to its school district’s oldest collection, with an average age of 21 years. More than half its collection dates from 1920 to 1980. As the school prepares to move to a new facility, its share of the Great Books Giveaway will help bring its collection up to date and help it to offer a far better book-to-student ratio.
“When I saw on the caller ID that YALSA was calling, I felt my heart had stopped. I was sure it had. I’m grateful for the consideration and exceedingly pleased with the news,” said Lynne V. Douglas-Simmons, NBCT media specialist at Colleton County High School. “We will now offer our students vibrant fiction that’s relevant to their lives, nonfiction that’s current and vital, and alternative media that was nonexistent! This award allows us to launch our collection into the 21st century.”
Third-place Fletcher Public School serves a rural community with nearly half of its young adults on free or reduced lunch. The school’s library provides services to all 465 students in the district, plus the entire community of 1,200 on Tuesday evenings, as the nearest public library is 25 miles from Fletcher. With a yearly budget of less than $9 per student, the library relies on donations, book fairs and fundraisers. Getting this prize has made a significant impact on the community, according to library media specialist Debbie Arthur.
“In a small town, news travels fast. Our principal announced to all the school about our grant — you should have heard the cheers coming through the intercom!” Arthur said. “With zero budget this year, this award means that the youth will have new, current titles to read. And, since I am open to the community one evening a week, this will service not only the youth in our school but those in our community.”
The YALSA Great Books Giveaway Jury members are: Chair Season Hughes, Seattle Public Library; Catherine Andronik, Brien McMahon High School, Norwalk, Conn.; Carolyn Dietz, St. Louis (Mo.) Public Library; Brooke Faulkner, McArthur Library, Biddeford, Maine; and Brenda Lee Poku, Newton County Library System, Covington, Ga.
The application form and information for next year’s Great Books Giveaway are available on the YALSA website, www.ala.org/yalsa/awards&grants
. Applications must be received in the YALSA office by Dec. 1, 2011.
For more information contact the YALSA office, (800) 545-2433, ext. 4390, or e-mail: YALSA@ala.org
For more than 50 years, YALSA has been the world leader in selecting books, videos and audiobooks for teens. For more information about YALSA or for lists of recommended reading, viewing and listening, go to www.ala.org/yalsa/booklists
, or contact the YALSA office by phone, (800) 545-2433, ext. 4390, or e-mail: email@example.com