Collaborative School Library Media Award honors educators offering alternatives for urban youth

Contact: Melissa B. Jacobsen

AASL Communications Specialist

(312) 280-4381



For Immediate Release

May 12, 2009

CHICAGO – Baltimore Polytechnic Institute's (Poly) library media specialist, Maureen O'Neill, and her co-worker, history teacher Dennis Jutras, are the recipients of the American Association of School Librarians’ (AASL) 2009 Collaborative School Library Media Award. O'Neill and Jutras will be honored for their project "Beyond National History Day" at the AASL Awards Luncheon during the ALA 2009 Annual Conference in Chicago.

In 2004, O'Neill and Jutras supported the participation of five Baltimore Polytechnic Institute students in the Maryland and National History Day (NHD) competitions. That year, all five of the Poly students earned awards at the local level, and three students excelled in the state competition, going on to compete on a national level. Because of the initial success, Poly made the participation in NHD a part of curriculum for all World History and AP history courses. Currently, 300 Poly students are participating in the 2009 NHD competition.Â

In her application O'Neill wrote, "[We] took an existing project, expanded its scope and personalized it to the needs of [Poly]. In this era of limited budgets and high-stakes testing, it is critical that educators do not waste time reinventing the wheel, but instead collaborate and partner… to personalize and institutionalize effective programs for their students."

Starting in September and lasting all the way through to the national competition in June, O'Neill and Jutras engage, motivate and challenge students to submit meaningful projects that focus on the theme of that year's NHD competition. Incorporating the projects into the curriculum has had a measurable impact on the library media program. In just two years, the school library media center's usage doubled. Students learn and apply information research skills and processes and learn how to access and analyze historical data and primary sources. Students have chosen topics that sometimes push the social boundaries such as gay marriage, "honor killings" of Muslim women and the historic desegregation of Poly.Â

The impact of "Beyond National History Day" is extremely meaningful for the urban school, which is a part of a district with a graduation rate of less that 50 percent. While Poly is one of the more academically successful schools in the district, many students still face familial and financial hardships. Participation in this project gives these students another option, as O'Neill and Jutras offer extended hours of access to the school library media center and its resources. In her letter of recommendation, a former student stated, "Their dedication resulted in staying up many nights until 5 in the morning… to achieve the best possible results."

The AASL Awards Luncheon will be held from noon to 2 p.m. on Monday, July 13, during Annual Conference. The fee to attend is $59. Special guest speaker for the luncheon will be Barbara Kerley, award-winning author of several books, including "Greetings from Planet Earth" and "What to Do About Alice." For more information about this event and more AASL programs in Chicago, visit

Established in 2000, the $2,500 AASL Collaborative School Library Media Award recognizes and encourages collaboration and partnerships between school library media specialists and teachers in meeting goals outlined in Information Power: Building Partnerships for Learning through joint planning of a program, unit or event in support of the curriculum and using media center resources. The award is sponsored by Highsmith, Inc.

The American Association of School Librarians,, a division of the American Library Association (ALA), promotes the improvement and extension of library media 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 media field.