In this blog post, we reflect on our library program and what we learned through the application and reception of the AASL National School Library Program of the Year Award. Below, we ask and answer a few questions.
Mimi Marquet: What did applying for this award teach you?
Lisa Koch: The application helped us document our practice, and I think that process left us both feeling incredibly grateful. This award was the result of not only our work, but the support of a big community. In the two years we’ve been working together, we built collaborations:
- within our school: with teachers, students, administrators, community members
- and beyond Lee–with many talented school librarians and educators in other schools
Each connection taught us something new–a deeper sense of empathy, an idea for a lesson, or a new skill.
Lisa Koch: What surprised you during this process?
Mimi Marquet: On the day the visiting team came to Lee High School we had the opportunity to hear students, teachers, and staff share their impressions of the library. All school librarians strive to implement best practices. When we heard others express the impact of our work it was very heartwarming. For example:
- Yonas, a sophomore English learner from Ethiopia, shared that he participated in our summer reading program to earn prizes and realized his English had improved significantly along the way. (DSC 1740 summer reading)
- A teacher reflected on the high level of student engagement during a collaborative lesson on protest poetry.
One thing I wasn’t surprised about is that the level of support we have in Fairfax County is quantifiable. At the school level, we are fortunate to have the support of our principal, Deirdre Lavery, who understands the importance of a strong library program and isn’t afraid to make sweeping changes in support of the library’s potential impact. For example, when shown how many days the library was closed due to standardized testing, Ms. Lavery made the decision to invest in an expansion of the school-wide Wifi to include the main gym, thus creating an alternative space large enough to seat the necessary number of students during the standardized testing window and allowing the library to remain open. Having the library open consistently is a simple but powerful way to prioritize access and put students at the center of the learning community.
Mimi Marquet: What is one part of the library that makes you feel proud?
Lisa Koch: During our first year working together (2017-18), our circulation rose over 40%. This is one indicator of changes that were in process–we genre-stickered the fiction section, we held book speed dating sessions, created dynamic displays, and made physical changes to our space that helped students feel ownership of the library. We kept putting students at the center of our program and our students flourished.
Lisa Koch: What does this award mean to you?
Mimi Marquet: Professionally, receiving the award means validation of our thinking and it energizes us to keep pushing. We both enjoy collaborating with teachers and librarians, and we look forward to the new opportunities winning this award will provide to expand our collaborations.
Mimi Marquet: Any takeaways for other librarians?
Lisa Koch: As school librarians, we are a talented community of educators and practitioners. Documenting and sharing our experiences makes us stronger. We all have something to contribute–be brave and be part of the conversation. Now is the right time.
Lisa Koch: What is one thing you are excited to do in your library during the upcoming school year.
Mimi Marquet: 2017-2018 was the first year Lee High School was fully 1:1 (all students are provided with a school laptop). We’ve been strategically adapting the library space to respond to the change. This included adding wheels to the tables (thanks in large part to the generous donation of time and energy of handy library volunteer who also has a table saw), investigating power options for laptops and flexible seating. The $10,000 prize money will definitely go a long way in support of these goals.