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September 19, 2014

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Tech-Savvy School Librarians Win AASL’s Pathfinder Award

School librarians Sally Mays, who helps Spanish-speaking students develop information literacy skills, and Elizabeth Kahn, who teaches kids how to access reliable information and use it effectively, are winners of the 2012 American Association of School Librarian’s (AASL) Information Technology Pathfinder Award.

The $1,500 honor recognizes two school librarians—one in elementary and another in secondary school—for demonstrating vision and leadership while using information technology to build lifelong learners. It is sponsored by Follett Software Company.

 Tech Savvy School Librarians Win AASLs Pathfinder AwardMays (left), a media specialist at K-fifth grade Robbinsdale Spanish Immersion in New Hope, MN, works with students who mainly speak Spanish as a second language, helping them develop information literacy and research skills through technology.

The Robbinsdale Biblioteca supports the school’s Spanish language program by instilling a love of reading and helps students at all grade levels become empowered users of technology. When evaluating tech options, Mays sought those that would support information seeking and student-centered work, while remaining versatile enough to use in multiple grades and on multiple projects. She decided on TumbleBooks, an electronic database that offers books in Spanish, and CultureGrams, a state/geography database. Mays also sought free resources such as Google Apps, EasyBIB, and Type to Learn 4.

Mays admits that the biggest obstacle was teaching herself how to use the new tools. But once that hurdle was overcome, the librarian came up with Terrific Tuesday and Wacky Wednesday to provide students and teachers with tutorials on how to use them. Mays provides formal training sessions at least twice a month, on-the-spot training as needed, and structured professional development when requested by the staff or administration. She also collaborates with colleagues to teach kids basic computer skills, how to conduct research, and the principles of cyber safety.

Kahn (right) is a school librarian at Patrick F. Taylor Science and Technology Academy in Jefferson, LA, the only Tech Savvy School Librarians Win AASLs Pathfinder Award science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) school in the Jefferson Public School System, and the only school in the system to have a one-to-one laptop program.

The goals of Kahn’s library program are to help students develop a love of reading and to teach them how to access accurate and reliable information. She uses a Shelfari bookshelf embedded on the library’s website and sends email blasts to announce any new titles in her library.

To further entice students, her website includes book trailers (some made by students), and a series of digital book talks called, “Get Reading,”

“When a student arrives in the library out of breath and says, ‘Where is it? I want to check it out now!’ I know (that) this student has opened the email with a link to the list of newly (arrived) books,” Kahn states in her application. “Or when a student arrives asking for one of the books that I promoted in a ‘Get Reading’ episode, I get satisfaction knowing that my hard work has paid off.”

Kahn says technology helps her teach students how to access accurate and reliable information and become effective users of that information. When her teaching colleagues or students log onto their school-provided laptop, the library catalog opens as the homepage. As Kahn states in her application, “this was a first step in getting the library connection to technology embedded into the students’ and teachers’ minds.” Teaching teachers and students how to seek information from reliable resources is a key component of her library program.

Mays, Kahn, and other AASL award winners will be honored June 25 at AASL’s Awards luncheon during the American Library Association’s 2012 Annual Conference in Anaheim, CA. Carmen Agra Deedy, a bestselling author and ardent supporter of libraries, will be at the ceremony, courtesy of Peachtree Publishing. Ticket information can be found on the AASL website.

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