CHICAGO – Rebecca Caufman, library media specialist at Radford High School in Radford, Virginia, is one of five school librarians from across the country receiving a 2021 American Association of School Librarians’ (AASL) Inspire Special Event Grant. Made possible by the generosity of AASL member Marina “Marney” Welmers, the grant program provides funds for public middle or high school libraries to plan a special event to enhance student learning.
The Radford High School Library serves all of the southwestern Virginia school system’s secondary students. The physical space is shared with the neighboring intermediate school and is staffed by one full-time school librarian, first-year school librarian Caufman. The library’s mission is to encourage lifelong learning through literacy while helping to ensure that students become effective and ethical users of ideas and information.
Upon polling students and staff at the start of the school year, Caufman discovered that most viewed the library as a quiet place where students visited only to study and check out books. Caufman wants to move away from this traditional view of a school library and will use grant funds to begin building a makerspace. Her goal is to transform Radford’s school library into a hub of activity and learning in the school, helping students to think, create, share, and grow. Materials in the makerspace will focus on fostering creativity and exploration, and a special project each month will provide learners the opportunity to work on skills such as perseverance, personal inquiry, problem solving, focus, collaboration, and creativity.
“It has been a difficult year for libraries and the committee took note of that when looking at grant submissions,” said Zandra Lopez, grant committee chair. “A special event might mean something different to individual libraries. School librarians wanted to make connections with students and provide them with opportunities within the library environment. Whether that included virtual author visits, improving collections, or creating makerspaces, each submission focused on student engagement. In a year with many restrictions, the ability to provide a special event for students truly captures the spirit of this award.”
The AASL award winners will be recognized during the 2021 AASL National Conference taking place October 21-23 in Salt Lake City, Utah.
The American Association of School Librarians, www.aasl.org, a division of the American Library Association (ALA), empowers leaders to transform teaching and learning.