The six school librarians in District 214 in Arlington Heights, Illinois, are proud and honored to share the AASL National School Library of the Year Award with all our stakeholders. Together we serve six high schools, 12,000 students, 1,600 staff, and six communities. We believe that the support we receive from our administration, staff, public libraries, and communities is what allows us to meet the diverse needs of all our students and to guide them in becoming college and career ready. We feel so fortunate to be recognized and to be part of the continuing conversation about the importance of school libraries. As a result of this award, we have been given the privilege to share the relevance of school libraries and the benefits that they bring to the community at large with a broader audience.
The six libraries of District 214 are the nucleus of learning in each of the school buildings. Each morning the school libraries are filled with the bustle of students as they prepare for their academic day. Students can be found studying, engaged in peer tutoring, and participating in test cram sessions in every corner of the library. Throughout the day, students flock to the library for academic assistance from tutors, a place to collaborate on projects, and an area to study during blended classes. The libraries also support an environment of inquiry; many days there are makerspace and tinkering opportunities in our libraries. Students can explore new technologies, play board games, make crafts, and unwind from a packed academic schedule. Our libraries provide a space for preschool storytime, a statewide original research competition, coding with Spheros, travelling the world with Google Goggles, college essay writing support, tutoring across the curriculum, collaborating with a corporation on an innovation project, and, of course, access to thousands of books, magazines, audio recordings, and much more. This is what makes the school library the heart of the school.
We effectively serve our school community through our collaborative and inclusive approach. Our collaboration begins with a monthly meeting among the six school librarians and continues with communications via e-mail and phone. What truly allows us to excel is the support we receive from administration in our efforts to teach across the district. At any given time you might find two or more librarians from different schools supporting one another’s programs, be it working together to support an AP Seminar class, providing literacy lessons, giving book talks, or hosting a traveling exhibit. In addition, our staff and students have access to books and resources across the district.
We are also fortunate to work with five excellent public libraries and their librarians. They help facilitate programs for our students ranging from summer reading, book clubs, and makerspaces to research skills lessons and author visits. Our communities promote the importance of school libraries through grants, attendance at library events, donation of materials, volunteering, and celebrating our successes.
We were finalists for the award in 2017. Through the application and final visit process, we carefully evaluated all areas of our libraries and determined that there were aspects that needed refinement. Before we applied again for consideration for the award, we reflected on our practice, dove into the AASL Standards, and changed our approach to how we practice in several ways. The end result is that we have increased our level of communication and collaboration and developed a clearer understanding of our mission and purpose.
We are delighted to be named the 2019 National School Library of the Year. Like the Stanley Cup, the stunning obelisk trophy has been travelling from school to school, extending the celebration with our staff and students. We continue to seek opportunities to grow professionally and contribute to sharing our knowledge. Our goal is to maintain our libraries as safe, inclusive spaces where all members of our school community can explore new horizons.