Announcing the 2020 School Librarian of the Year Longlist

Five impressive applicants have made the School Librarian of the Year longlist.

School Library Journal (SLJ) revealed the 2020 School Librarian of the Year longlist today.

"We are delighted to honor the individuals selected for the first-ever longlist for our School Librarian of the Year award,” says SLJ editor-in-chief Kathy Ishizuka. “By recognizing a range of achievement in programming and meeting student need, SLJ can showcase the depth represented in this profession. We are pleased to hold up these standout educators to their local municipalities as well as the greater K–12 school community.”

The School Librarian of the Year award, presented annually by SLJ and sponsored by Scholastic Book Fairs and Scholastic Digital Solutions, honors a K–12 library professional for “outstanding achievement and the exemplary use of 21st-century tools and services to engage children and teens toward fostering multiple literacies.”

The 2020 School Librarian of the Year will be announced on Monday, March 24.

A panel of judges, including Scholastic’s ambassador of school libraries John Schumacher and 2018 School Librarian of the Year Ali Schilpp, noted five standouts from this year’s submissions. Each one has met the criteria of effectively engaging students; providing “exemplary service” to meet the needs of students and the community; running creative programs; collaborating with teachers and administrators; integrating library services into the curricula; using technology; providing outreach to families; and promoting the library.

Read: Appalachian Trailblazer: Ali Schilpp, SLJ's 2018 School Librarian of the Year

Every submission spoke of the library becoming the hub of school learning and community under the guidance of these professionals, who have gone above and beyond their job description to make a difference in the lives of their students and colleagues.

Leslie Cartier, the library media specialist at C.W. Baker High School, Baldwinsville, NY, turned a room once used only for study hall into the heart of the school, a place where programming touches relevant issues such as mental health and social justice, technology is used to further education and engagement—not as an add-on—and there is now a student-run Genius Bar that helps peers and members of the community with their tech questions. It is one of many of Cartier’s programs that started in the school and now benefit members of the community. She has been recognized for her work, winning the 2018 Central New York School Librarians “Soaring with Excellence Super Librarian Award” and having her Baker High School library named the Central New York Library Resources Council 2017 School Library of the Year.

Rosenid Hernández Badia knows what all of the students are studying at Benjamin Franklin International Exploratory Academy in Dallas, coordinates her programs to those lessons, and collaborate with the school’s teachers for continuity and breadth of instruction around each subject or theme. The media specialist has a focus on equity and emphasizes projects with social responsibility, often connecting students with members of the community and offering programs for parents and community members such as resume writing and job interviewing skills. She trains teachers on technology, offering creative ways to integrate it into their curriculum, and she gets involved beyond the library as well. She runs an annual career day, bringing in more than 100 speakers and handles the homecoming parade float—always with a book-related theme. Since arriving in Dallas from Puerto Rico in 2006, she has earned many recognitions including 2014 Dallas Independent School District’s Librarian of the Year and the Texas Librarians Association Tall Texans Leadership Award.

Ben Kort , who is the media specialist at Fircrest Elementary School in Vancouver, WA, works to close the information and access gap that leaves his students behind others in more affluent areas. Since arriving at the school, he has creatively used limited resources and budget to update and genrefy the collection, add books in the languages of immigrant students, and turn an empty computer lab into a makerspace that now hums with activity all day. His principal calls his read-alouds “legendary.” Kort helps students with the tools needed to differentiate news from misinformation. He is cognizant of students’ personal situations and works to make sure all can be included. For example, he raised money for book fair vouchers so that students who couldn’t otherwise afford to purchase books during the event go home with a book.

Library media specialist Cicely Lewis works tirelessly to find innovative programs and events for the students of Meadowcreek High School in Norcross, GA. She created a Book Fashion Show, earned a grant for exercise bikes in the library, and helped raise money for the Gwinnett County Public School bookmobile, which circulated 18,000 books in June and July. She started a teachers’ book club and helped create the reading-rich environment that can be seen in the “Currently Reading” signs on teachers’ doors. But Lewis is best-known for her Read Woke program that became an international movement based on giving students books that feature characters who reflect the student body and issues that are important to them. The program ignited a passion for reading in the students and spawned Tech Woke to use technology for social justice issues and with literacy-based activities. She won the 2019 National Teacher Award for Lifelong Readers, which is administered jointly by the National Council of Teachers of English and Penguin Random House.

At John Hancock High School in Chicago, librarian Timothy Toner is the man with all the answers. If he doesn’t know immediately, he will research, learn, and find the person to share the needed information. Students seek his assistance in all areas of academics and campus life, whether it’s for a technology issue or book reviews, college applications or as a judgment-free sounding board for their personal struggles. Colleagues find him for help refining ideas and solving problems, or to hear a different perspective and brainstorm ways around resource limitations. He has worked with staff to give students the media literacy needed to be productive, informed citizens and in his conversations, programs, and collection decisions validated their identities and taught them to find the power in their own life stories.

The 2020 School Librarian of the Year longlist (names are listed alphabetically):

  • Leslie Cartier, library media specialist, C.W. Baker High School, Baldwinsville, NY
  • Rosenid Hernández Badia, media specialist, Benjamin Franklin International Exploratory Academy, Dallas, TX
  • Ben Kort, media specialist, Fircrest Elementary School, Vancouver, WA
  • Cicely Lewis, library media specialist, Meadowcreek High School, Norcross, GA
  • Timothy Toner, librarian, John Hancock High School, Chicago

For more information about the School Librarian of the Year Award, visit

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Kara Yorio

Kara Yorio (, @karayorio) is senior news editor at School Library Journal.

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Anne Chapman

The bio does not do Cicely Lewis justice. Her Read Woke program not only ignited reading in her school but also in her school system (one of the largest in the country) and beyond. She is an amazing teacher leader / librarian / media specialist and well deserves all of her accolades.

Posted : Mar 04, 2020 03:47

Alison Baird

I am thrilled to see an elementary school represented. Great Job!

Posted : Mar 04, 2020 02:30

Laura Fleming

Ben Kort is an AMAZING librarian/ tech teacher! So happy to see him recognized!

Posted : Mar 03, 2020 12:52



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