CHICAGO – School librarians Sally Mays and Elizabeth Kahn are the recipients of the 2012 American Association of School Librarian’s (AASL) Information Technology Pathfinder Award. Sponsored by Follett Software Company, the $1,500 award recognizes and honors two school librarians – one elementary and one secondary – for demonstrating vision and leadership through the use of information technology to build lifelong learners.
Sally Mays, the recipient of the elementary division award, is the bibliotecaria at Robbinsdale Spanish Immersion, a kindergarten through fifth grade magnet school located in New Hope, Minn. She faces the challenge of empowering students for whom Spanish is their second language by helping them develop information literacy and research skills. Through technology, Mays is able to meet the needs of the students in ways not previously possible.
The goals of the Robbinsdale Biblioteca include supporting the Spanish language program, instilling a love of reading, teaching and enabling the research process at all grade levels and creating technology empowered learners. While evaluating technology options, Mays looked for those that would support information seeking and student-centered work as well as options that would be versatile and could be used in multiple grades and multiple projects. Mays purchased TumbleBooks, an electronic database that also offers books in Spanish and CultureGrams, a state/geography database. She also chose no-fee options, such as Google Apps, EasyBIB and Type to Learn 4.
Mays admits that the biggest hurdle in implementing new tools was learning them herself. However, once the tools were implemented, Mays instituted Terrific Tuesday and Wacky Wednesday to provide instruction to students and teachers on their use. She provides formal training sessions at least two times per month, on-the-spot training as needed and structured professional development as requested by the staff and/or administration. Mays also collaborates with teachers to identify student needs such as learning basic computer skills, undertaking research and the principals of cyber safety.
Elizabeth Kahn, the recipient of the secondary division award, is the school librarian at Patrick F. Taylor Science and Technology Academy in Jefferson, La, which serves grades 6-12. The academy is the only Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) school in the Jefferson Public School System as well as the only school in the system to have a one-to-one laptop program.
The goals of the Patrick F. Taylor library program are to help students develop a love of reading in anticipation of their becoming lifelong learners and to teach students how to access accurate and reliable information and become effective users of that information. Kahn uses a Shelfari bookshelf embedded on the library’s website and email blasts to announce the addition of new titles to the library.
To further entice students, the website also includes book trailers, some student made, and “Get Reading” a series of digital book talks. “When a student arrives in the library out of breath and says, ‘Where is it? I want to check it out now!’ I know (that) this student has opened the email with a link to the list of newly (arrived) books,” Kahn states in her application. “Or when a student arrives asking for one of the books that I promoted in a ‘Get Reading’ episode, I get satisfaction knowing that my hard work has paid off.”
Technology also enables Kahn to fulfill the second goal of her library program, which is to teach students how to access accurate and reliable information and become effective users of that information. When staff or students log onto the Internet on their school-provided laptop, the library catalog opens as the homepage. As Kahn states in her application, “this was a first step in getting the library connection to technology embedded into the students’ and teachers’ minds.” Kahn is adamant that teachers and students seek information from reliable resources and teaching the students to find those sources is a key component of her library program.
Mays, Kahn and other AASL award winners will be honored at AASL's Awards Luncheon during ALA's 2012 Annual Conference in Anaheim, Calif. The luncheon will be held Monday, June 25. Carmen Agra Deedy, best-selling author and ardent supporter of libraries, will be at the ceremony courtesy of Peachtree Publishing. Ticket information can be found on the AASL website at http://www.ala.org/aasl/annual.
The American Association of School Librarians, www.aasl.org, 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.