Winning Characteristics for the National School Library Program of the Year

Article excerpt

The American Association of School Librarians (AASL) offers multiple awards to recognize school libraries and personnel. One such award is the National School Library Program of the Year (NSLPY), established in 1963; it offers a monetary award and public recognition for exemplary school library programs, for both individual schools and entire districts. Taking the mission of the AASL standards to heart, this award recognizes schools where students and staff are effective users of ideas and information.

The NSLPY award has some basic criteria. The teacher librarian must be a personal member of AASL, and tile following foundational elements must be present on tile application. (The foundations are grounded in the philosophy established in the "Developing Visions for Learning" chapter of Empowering Learners: Guidelines for School Library Programs):

1. Tile mission, goals, and objectives of the program support the mission, goals, and objectives of the school and district.

2. A long-term strategic plan for the school library program needs to reflect the goals and objectives of the school and district.

3. The school library program needs to include policies, procedures, and guidelines that support equitable access to ideas and information throughout the entire school community.

Flexible scheduling and staffing are also preferred by the awarding committee, but the five elements they score are:

1. Learning environment

2. Teaching for learning

3. Collaborative partnerships

4. Advocacy and outreach

5. Global leadership

The committee examines these elements and scores them as distinguished, proficient, or apprentice. Of course, the exemplary programs usually fall well within the distinguished score in each area.

Completing the application and fulfilling the criteria are feats unto themselves, but the programs this award recognizes are truly exemplary. The application itself results in collaboration that isn't found in many programs and involves numerous people outside of the school library program. Regardless, if this prestigious award is won, a program wins .just by doing this work and increasing visibility in the community.

Teacher Librarian consulted the "best of the best" school library programs from the past five years and invited them to offer a short statement about the characteristics that qualified them for this award. We found several commonalities among these programs and hope that you will be able to emulate some of these characteristics to make your own program even stronger.

If a school makes the finalist list, committee members perform a site visit. A visit inspires people in the school district and community-not just the teacher librarian and school library staff--to discuss what the school library program means to them and their world. Some of the greatest comments about school library programs come from students, educational staff, and community members who want to interact not only with their school library program but also with others, so that they know more about that program.

Being on the NSLPY committee involves learning wonderful things about great school library programs. It is often difficult to distinguish between fantastic and exemplary programs. Many schools and districts apply, and all of them have wonderful aspects, but some exemplify what a program can be--these are the targets for the award. Committee members travel to qualifying programs and validate applications and programs. This includes hard work and lots of reading; for applicants, a committee visit means stress, anxiety, preparation (lots of it), logistic work, and impromptu flexibility. Without question, each applicant gains much insight into their program and how to improve the work they are already doing.

In each issue of Teacher Librarian, we encourage readers to try things that make them more central to student learning. …