For immediate release | June 20, 2017

Two schools receive $50,000 grants from AASL Beyond Words and the Dollar General Literacy Foundation

CHICAGO – Two Louisiana schools, Galvez Primary School located in Prairieville and Denham Springs High School located in Denham Springs, are the recipients of the 2017 catastrophic disaster relief grants offered as part of the American Association of School Librarians’ (AASL) Beyond Words Grant funded by the Dollar General Literacy Foundation.

In 2012, Dollar General renewed its commitment to school libraries by increasing grant amounts and introducing two $50,000 catastrophic disaster relief grants. Schools awarded catastrophic grants suffer a 90 percent or greater loss to the school library program due to a natural disaster, fire or an act recognized by the federal government as terrorism.

“Both catastrophic grant recipients for this year were granted to school libraries that lost everything in floods in August of 2016,” said Jennisen Lucas, grant jury chair. “In communities in which they were not expecting such a catastrophe, the students and staff lost everything in their homes as well. Providing them with replacement school library resources is a step toward returning their school communities to a new sense of normal.”

In Galvez Primary School’s library, flood waters remained high for three days causing a total loss in books, teacher materials, study areas, technology and the computer lab. The Galvez library was unreachable and water soaked and weakened the shelves. The shelves collapsed and dropped all the library’s books into three feet of muddy water. The school, also inundated, was closed and all students were displaced to temporary locations for the entire 2016-2017 school year.

“Ten months ago, when our school was flooded, we lost our amazing library,” said Amy LaPorte, school librarian. “It was full of over decades of memories, books and technology. Seeing the shelves busted, furniture tossed about, books and materials wet and soggy was horrible, but telling our students that they had lost their library was devastating. However, thanks to AASL and the Dollar General Literacy Foundation, we will be able to restock our library with new books and materials, replace furniture and take our technology to the next level. We will be able to rise above the flood waters and give our students the library that they need to succeed in the 21st century!”

Classes at Denham Springs High School had been in session six days before flood waters closed the school on August 15, 2016. Located in one of the areas hardest hit by flooding, it was estimated that 75 percent of the homes in the parish were a total loss. Fifteen schools in the district were heavily flooded and the Denham Springs library was a total loss. When school resumed in the district a month later, students, staff, and faculty from Denham were ferried to a nearby campus, which adjusted their schedule to accommodate the extra classes.

“The funds will be used to start building our collection again,” said Gail Arceneaux, school librarian. “Residents returned to their homes only to find their belongings soaked and destroyed. Most of these homes were not in a flood plain and it is estimated that only 21.7 percent of Denham Springs homes were covered by flood insurance. These families will not have extra money to purchase their children’s favorite books, so it would be great to have them in the library for them. This thousand-year flood worked away our student’s past; we want to ensure a bright future.”

"Our libraries are so much more than collections of materials," said AASL President Audrey Church. "They are hubs of engagement and learning, and they serve as the heart of our schools and our communities. AASL is deeply grateful for the continuing support of the Dollar General Literacy Foundation. The Beyond Words program funds directly impact children and communities and will help Galvez Primary School and Denham Springs High School with the healing process after such catastrophic losses."

Beyond Words Grant applications are accepted on an ongoing basis at for public schools with a pre-existing school library who have been impacted through direst loss or through an increase in enrollment due to displaced students. Initial grants range from $10,000 - $20,000 with two additional catastrophic grants awarded annually to those programs who have experienced a 90 percent or greater loss to their program.

The American Association of School Librarians,, a division of the American Library Association (ALA), empowers leaders to transform teaching and learning.

Related Links

American Association of School Librarians’ (AASL) Beyond Words Grant funded by the Dollar General Literacy Foundation


Jennifer Habley

Manager, Web Communications

American Association of School Librarians (AASL)