Reflect, Connect, and Jump: What I Learned from the Frances Henne Award

When I received news that I was selected for the Frances Henne Award, though I was excited and honored, I was also beset with a strong case of imposter syndrome. I didn’t share the news, and I wasn’t quite sure I deserved it. As a librarian, I’m really more of a behind the scenes thinker, connector, and collaborator, not the “take the spotlight” kind of gal.

So why did I apply? Well, as a member of the AASL Standards and Guidelines Implementation Task Force, I was committed to attending the ALA Annual Conference, and simply put, like most librarians I know, going to national conference is a stretch for my budget. Enter the Frances Henne Award, which would help fund my trip.

I hadn’t heard of Frances Henne, a longtime ALA and AASL member who died in 1986, but I’ve been inspired by what I’ve learned in the past few months. Here are a few gems I’ve learned from my connection with France Henne:


The Frances Henne Award gave me a chance to reflect when I didn’t know I needed it. I sat in my school library on a cold January day, and somehow, writing the application essay became not just a required element for the application but an important process of reflection and learning that helped me put together my work in my school, my state association, and in my graduate studies in a way that left me feeling convicted in my work and my future directions. When I finished writing, I remember thinking, “Even if I’m not selected for the award, it’s already been worth it.”

I often refer to my work in the library as being the wide-angle lens to learning in the school, and my application essay was the panoramic selfie that helped me begin to put myself into a larger context.


When I read about Frances Henne, I was bowled over by the depth of her connections and collaborations with AASL, from her dissertation on supporting readers in school libraries to her pioneering work to establish standards for school libraries. I found a kindred spirit in Henne’s priorities, and reading of her achievements helped me find my place in her legacy. The Frances Henne Award is about continuing the work that Henne herself–and so many others–found to be important, and I am happy to be part of that work.

This spring, I also ran across Joyce Valenza’s “A belated confession” blog post on SLJ about how school librarians have to give up trying to “rock every aspect of our jobs at once” and learn, instead, to prioritize in our enormous jobs. Connecting with Joyce and the other librarians who commented on her blog reminded me that we all have something to celebrate and share.


Attending the AASL Awards Ceremony in Orlando gave me an amazing chance to see the richness of the AASL membership and all the human resources that we can learn from just from jumping into the AASL community. From the winners of the new AASL Inspire Collection Development Grants to Ann Yawornitsky’s passionate acceptance speech for the Miss Honey Social Justice Award, I was proud of and impressed by the depth and breadth of the work of our colleagues in AASL.

And so, while I began this journey with a practical need and a severe case of imposter syndrome, I emerge with a clearer sense of kinship with my AASL colleagues, past and present. So who’s next?  I encourage you to take a look at the Frances Henne Award or other AASL awards and see where you can jump in for a chance to reflect and connect.


Jones, Plummer Alston, Jr. “Frances Henne and the development of school library standards.” The Free Library 22 March 2004. Retrieved August 08, 2016, from Henne and the development of school library standards.-a0125151317.

Valenza, J. (2016, March 26). A belated confession. Retrieved August 08, 2016, from

Author: Kate Lechtenberg

Categories: Awards Spotlight, Community

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