Want to Have an Award-Winning School Library?

The deadline for the Sara Jaffarian School Library Program Award for Exemplary Humanities Programming is fast approaching (December 15, to be exact), so I thought now would be a good time to highlight past award winners and share some application tips.

What is the Sara Jaffarian Award? It’s an annual award given to a school library that has conducted an exemplary program or program series in the humanities during the prior school year. It consists of a $4,000 cash award, a plaque; and the promotion of the winner as a model program for other school libraries. The award’s purpose is to recognize, promote, and support excellence in humanities programming in elementary and middle school libraries that serve children K–8.

Why should you apply? Well, if the $4,000 cash award isn’t enough incentive, how about being given a forum for sharing your library’s amazing programming? And the recognition that goes with it, of course. Or, because, as Sally Rasch, school librarian at the 2009 award-winning library, discovered, “you never know what may come of [applying]. Just filling out the application gave me insights into my programming that I used the following year. Attending ALA and meeting librarians from around the USA was an incredible experience.”

How should you prepare your application? Barbara Ungar, library media teacher at the 2007 award-winning library, advised, “Don’t give up. Be creative. Get the support of your principal before you start. Follow all the directions in the application.” Sandra Wiseman, school library media specialist at the 2008 award-winning library, noted that “[i]t is important that the applicant stay very organized and keep copies of all of the paperwork involved (applications, schedules, flyers, photographs, etc.) It is also important to identify and remember key people who were actively involved in making the project successful.” Nicolette Vaillancourt, learning resource center director at the 2010 award-winning library, asked her principal for advice, and was told to “address every criteria point and to organize the information so that each point was readily accessible for the grant readers.” Finally, Kathleen Ellis, chair of the 2012 Jaffarian Award Selection Committee, shared that winning applications will exhibit:

  • the relationship of the programming to the curriculum and evidence of a curriculum component for classroom treatment of the humanities theme(s) or topic(s) emphasized in the program;
  • the excellence, appeal, and innovation of program content and presentation;
  • the impact, as evidenced by involvement and awareness of parents, administrators, and community leaders (letters in support of nomination are encouraged);
  • evidence of collaborative relationships in developing the programming (e.g., parents, teachers, administrators, humanities scholars, community groups); and
  • the replicability of the programming and the winner’s willingness to participate in a conference program or online meeting to showcase the winner as a model for excellence for other school libraries.

Still not convinced? Get inspired by reading interviews with past award-winning applicants and finding out more about their programs: