The 2020 & 2021 AASL Research Grants Session

Did you know that each year, AASL has a research award competition that ABC-CLIO sponsors? The winners typically speak face-to-face at the ALA Annual Conference or the bi-annual AASL national conference. Naturally, COVID-19 disrupted conference plans and some of the 2020 and 2021 winners spoke together at this year’s AASL National Conference.

Today, I had the pleasure of seeing Drs. Heather Moorefield-Lang (2021 winner) and Jenna Kammer discuss the papers that they co-wrote. I highly recommend that you read both papers for the specific terminology used in them. Each article is published in School Libraries Worldwide. They are excellent, and I genuinely believe that all school librarians, stakeholders, and school library educators will gain something from the insights shared in them. Here are quick summaries for each presentation.

“Factors Influencing Intention to Introduce Accessibility in Makerspace Planning and Implementation” by Heather Moorefield-Lang, Associate Professor, UNC Greensboro, and Ana Dubnjakovic, Head of Music Library, University of South Carolina

This paper used a mixed-methods approach and the Theory of Planned Behavior to examine school librarians’ intentions for implementing accessible makerspaces. A total of 116 participants completed the study. On average, they reported implementing makerspaces for two years. Most respondents were elementary school librarians, however, all school levels and types (i.e., private, public, etc.) of school librarians participated.


  • A clearer understanding of accessibility is needed. Many of the participants thought of accessibility as having equal access to equipment. “I have a makerspace. It is open during these hours. All of my students can use it.”
  • Creating an accessible makerspace can be expensive. Although students quickly buy into makerspaces, buy-in is needed from administration and teachers to implement them accessibly.
  • A school librarian’s self-efficacy is an indicator of their ability to implement an accessible makerspace
  • Accessibility is not about having a space that anyone can use. It is about providing multiple ways for people to access resources. Examples include:
    • Instructions that are also written in braille and have audio and visual formats.
    • Shelves that are low enough to reach.
    • Signage placed high up and available lower to the ground.
    • Signage that includes words and pictures.
    • Aisles that are wide enough for wheelchairs.

“School and Public Library Collaboration: A Phenomenology of Working Together” by Jenna Kammer and Denise Moreland

Several articles have been written that offer strategies about how school and public librarians can collaborate. However, there is very little research that examines what happens when engaged in collaborative research activities. This study used a phenomenology approach to understanding school and public librarians’ experiences with collaborative efforts. Hence, a phenomenological study is a study of the human experience. It will ask what happened to someone and why.

Drs. Kammer and Moreland interviewed 12 school librarians and 18 public librarians in Midwest libraries. The requirement for inclusion in the study was evidence of collaborative activities. While conducting the study, Kammer and Moreland noticed that the public librarians were more likely to work in one building. Alternatively, the school librarians were more likely to work in at least two schools.


  • Public librarians often depended on school librarians to advertise their programs.
  • Clear communication was essential to school librarians.
  • Sometimes public librarians feel like they are pests. For them, relationships should be mutually beneficial.
  • School librarians were more likely to look at collaboration in terms of levels of complexity. Alternatively, communicating and emailing about a topic was considered a collaborative activity.
  • Public librarians have difficulty knowing who to contact at a school and assume it is acceptable to talk with an administrator. On the contrary, school librarians prefer to be contacted directly. Contacting the administrator without talking to the school librarian can ruin a relationship.
  • Both types of librarians have ideas for collaboration. However, they often fail to contact each other for implementation.

Interested in Applying?

Full papers are submitted for the competition. According to the AASL Research Grant page, the papers may be articles that have already been published within the specified timeframe. They can also be finished papers under review or ready to be submitted to a peer-reviewed journal. Several topics are eligible. They include but are not limited to technology leadership, research about the AASL Standards Shared Foundations, literacy skills, and collaborative learning.

There are additional criteria. For instance, the papers need to address an important or unique school librarianship topic. The parts of the research paper must also be present: introduction, conclusion, a clear rationale or model or theoretical framework, literature review, results, and conclusion. If you have original research that can be applied to school librarianship, I encourage you to apply. The next deadline is February 1, 2022. See this page for full details:


Author: Daniella Smith

Daniella Smith, PhD. is a former school and public librarian. She is currently the Hazel Harvey Peace Professor in Children’s Library Services at the University of North Texas.

Categories: AASL National Conference & Exhibiton, Advocacy/Leadership, Blog Topics, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, Makerspaces/Learning Commons, STEM/STEAM

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