Last week AASL announced the Ruth Toor Grant for Strong Public School Libraries. A brilliant woman with a far reaching career, Ruth is no longer able to be active in the profession she loves. This grant will ensure that her name and what she has always valued will continue to be reminder to school librarians and the communities they serve of the importance of strong school library programs headed by a certified school librarians. Her husband, Jay Toor said, “Ruth and I want to ensure excellence for every student by advocating for a school library with a certified school librarian in every school. These grants will allow school librarians to talk to their community’s parent leaders, teachers, principals, school board or superintendent about the importance of strong school library programs with certified school librarians.”
Through the generosity of the Toors, winners of the grant will receive $5,000, $3,000 of which is to create and implement a project that promotes school library awareness and its accomplishments to school officials and administrators. The remaining $2,000 is for the school librarian and a school official (or volunteer parent) to attend the AASL national conference or the ALA Annual Conference during the years when there is no AASL national conference. I find this last stipulation to be indicative of the value Ruth and Jay place on how the national conference promotes growth and attending the scheduled sessions will open the eyes of any administrator to the value of school librarians.
The award criteria are a guideline for how to implement a good program. First the goals of the project must be identified, showing how the school library will use the funds to further public awareness. The plan must include a timeline (and in this case it must be completed within eleven months of the grant) and list the number of school library users who will benefit from it. Of course, a budget needs to detail how the monies will be spent.
It is a wonderful award in support of school libraries and school librarians, but it has additional meaning for me. In the summer of 1976, Ruth and I were part of a post-Masters course offered at Rutgers University. Both of us turned in a Volunteer Manual as a final project. Our classmates, all experienced librarians, were so impressed they urged us to combine our work into a book and 1979, The School Librarian’s Almanac was published and was a huge success.
The next year, our publisher asked us to create a monthly (ten times per year) newsletter, and the School Librarian’s Workshop was born. Originally it was sixteen pages, but among the changes we made over the years was to move to a twenty-four page publication issued bi-monthly. We continued working together on School Librarian’s Workshop while working in for our schools and writing numerous additional books, the last ones for ALA Editions.
Early in 2011, it became obvious that Ruth could no longer work on the newsletter. She retired completely after the June/July 2011 issue when I took it over and made it an e-newsletter. We had a long and productive partnership and friendship. We watched each other’s children grow up, marry, and have children of their own. Throughout, Ruth was a strong advocate for school librarians. I am honored to have had her in my life. I am overjoyed the award will continue her work.