April 26, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Bold in Every Setting| Editorial

Alabama, Texas, Virginia, and Illinois all have something to celebrate. Those states are home to the honorees of the inaugural Build Something Bold award, developed by SLJ in partnership with LEGO Education. The award aims to identify innovative design in school libraries or classrooms that enables high levels of engagement from children or teens and supports the development of multiple literacies.

Together, the prize-winning programs identified from 38 entries show just how much can be accomplished by thinking about space and programming hand in hand and breaking old rules that don’t support kids as they learn. They highlight the creativity in schools that range widely in size and culture. They also make it impossible to ignore the disparate funding experienced in each setting. As I read the stories of these programs, I thought time and again that all kids deserve these kinds of learning spaces in their schools, and these programs all deserve more support.

Meet the innovative and inspiring library at the Walnut Grove Elementary School in New Market, AL, the winner of the Build Something Bold award (see “Bold Statements,” p. 32). There, 250 students get the benefit of having Holly Whitt as the creative force behind the reinvention of library services and the space—on a minute budget. A hip and tech-enabled “Digital Diner” serves as a centerpiece and collaborative work area. It complements programming that connects this rural farming community to the world beyond and a future with options through the development of tech skills and real-world, hands-on projects.

Beyond this winner and two runners-up selected by the judging panel, the Build Something Bold award also recognizes an editor’s pick. SLJ executive editor Kathy Ishizuka and I embraced the challenge. There were many great programs to choose from, but one stood out: the library program at Adlai E. Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire, IL (see “Stairway to Learning,” p. 36). Thanks to the leadership of librarians Lisa Dettling and Toni Gorman, the school boasts a 24,000 square foot Information and Learning Center as a collaborative hub.

The school serves a relatively wealthy suburban Chicago student body—a mere five percent are low-income according to the nomination—and $15,603 is the expenditure per pupil. In comparison, in tiny Walnut Grove, 60 percent of the students qualify for free or reduced lunch. “It’s a stark contrast,” says Ishizuka, who coordinated the award. “It calls out the discrepancies in size and support in our schools.” Indeed. It is an unfortunate reality of our education system that we continue to tolerate a divide between the haves and have-nots despite the painful outcomes for too many of the children who simply do not get what they need.

Stevenson’s story is a compelling example of the power of a well-resourced library to be a vital center of engagement and learning for a school. The librarians there have a good budget and do a lot with it. If they had more, they could do even more for those students. “It goes without saying that they have a lot of money,” says Ishizuka. “All libraries should be supported this way.”

These winners, including the editor’s choice, have something very important in common: great librarians and great libraries. Imagine their impact if so many of them didn’t have to fight for resources every step of the way.


Rebecca T. Miller

This article was published in School Library Journal's November 2014 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

Rebecca T. Miller About Rebecca T. Miller

Rebecca T. Miller (rmiller@mediasourceinc.com) is Editorial Director, Library Journal and School Library Journal.

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