For immediate release | April 11, 2011

Harmony Middle School Library wins Sara Jaffarian Award

CHICAGO - Harmony Middle School in Overland Park, Kan. is the recipient of the 2011 Sara Jaffarian School Library Program Award for Exemplary Humanities Programming, the American Library Association (ALA) Public Programs Office announced. The award will be presented at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, June 25, at the ALA Annual Conference in New Orleans, prior to the Auditorium Speaker Series presentation of children's author, illustrator and film writer William Joyce. The Harmony Middle School library will receive a plaque recognizing the achievement, a cash award of $4,000 and inclusion of the winning program as a model in a national professional development session on library humanities programs.

Ronda Hassig, librarian at Harmony Middle School, developed and submitted the winning program, entitled “Harmony with Voice III – Our Poems Go Trans-Pacific.” Featuring collaboration among a team of library staff, teachers, administrators, parents, a poet and a community organization, the program brought 7th graders together with local poet Bonnie Lynn Tolson to create poetry and art around the theme of homelessness. Blending 21st century technologies such as Skype and Google Docs with traditional humanities subjects, “Harmony with Voice III” captures the spirit of the Jaffarian Award, while also giving back to the community with an auction of the student-created artwork, benefiting a local women’s homeless shelter.

“The program showed innovation in both the core project, the interactions with the poet and finally in the use of technology in a realistic way,” said Robbie Nickel, chairperson of the Jaffarian Award selection committee. “This program incorporated 21st century skills into a traditional humanities program: poetry writing and pottery.”

The Sara Jaffarian Award was established in 2006 to recognize and promote excellence in humanities programming in elementary and middle school (K-8) libraries. It is presented annually by the Public Programs Office, in cooperation with the American Association of School Librarians (AASL), and named for Sara Jaffarian, whose donation to ALA’s Cultural Communities Fund established the award. Jaffarian, a retired school librarian and long-time ALA member, spent her career passionately advocating for school libraries in every school. The Sara Jaffarian Award is selected annually by a committee comprising members of the ALA Public and Cultural Programs Advisory Committee (PCPAC) and AASL.

The ALA Public Programs Office promotes cultural and community programming as an essential part of library service in all types and sizes of libraries. Successful library programming initiatives have included the “Let’s Talk About It” reading and discussion series, traveling exhibitions, film discussion programs, LIVE! @ your library and more. Recently, the ALA Public Programs Office developed, an online resource center bringing librarians timely and valuable information to support them in the creation of high-quality cultural programs for their communities. For more information on the ALA Public Programs Office, visit