Shawna Ward receives AASL Inspire Special Event Grant

For Immediate Release
Wed, 05/13/2020


Jennifer Habley

AASL Manager, Web Communications

American Association of School Librarians (AASL)


CHICAGO – Shawna Ward, school librarian at Lindbergh High School in St. Louis, Missouri, is one of six school librarians from across the country receiving a 2020 American Association of School Librarians' (AASL) Inspire Special Event Grant. Made possible by the generosity of AASL member Marina “Marney” Welmers, the grant program provides funds for public middle or high school libraries to plan a special event to enhance student learning.

Following student discussions after the celebration of Black History Month was interrupted by a divisive event, Ward and co-librarian, Anna Whitehead, wanted to continue the conversation about race. Wanting to keep the momentum moving in a positive direction, they decided to host an author of books the students would enjoy and want to discuss critically. The grant will support author Tiffany D. Jackson’s visit to the school and programming centered around reading one of three of Jackson’s books. Ward and Whitehead feel the visit will not only benefit Lindbergh’s students academically, but it will also improve students’ social and emotional health.

Said AASL President Mary Keeling, “I’m so impressed with the way Shawna Ward and her colleagues worked through an incident that revealed racial insensitivity in the student body to create a curriculum unit and culminating event that will develop greater awareness of social justice issues and increased empathy in high school students.”

The Inspire Special Event Grant provides up to $2,000 in funding to a school library looking to engage students with school library resources and promote reading, books, literacy, and authors. The funds can be used to create a new or enhance an existing extracurricular activity that will increase student achievement. A total of $10,000 is distributed to schools annually.

“The committee was extremely impressed with the quality of the applications and their contributions towards engaging and empowering students,” said Rebecca Gordon, grant committee chair. “The grant recipients have showcased how the chosen events and programming will help schools foster community, collaboration, and creativity. These grants will allow the selected schools' learning communities to create a culture of reading and lifelong learning.”

“I’m thrilled that so many of the grant projects address issues of social justice, racial healing, and service learning,” said Keeling. “Through these grants, learners will be empowered to make a difference in their own communities and the world. AASL is exceedingly grateful to Marney Welmers for her continued financial support of the grant program. Her gifts celebrate the impact school librarians have on learners and school culture.”

The AASL award winners will be honored during a virtual AASL Awards Ceremony during the fall of 2020. The virtual ceremony will replace the live ceremony traditionally presented during the ALA Annual Conference. Out of concern for the health and safety of all members of the community, the ALA Executive Board felt it was important to cancel the 2020 conference taking place in Chicago. Details for the virtual ceremony will be shared as they are finalized. 

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