Monday, October 31, 2011

Follett Challenge: A Journey

Who knew that one phone call in the middle of September would totally change the outlook for my library this year? The day I received the news that my school was a finalist in the Follett Challenge is one that I will never forget. The six finalists had no idea of their final placement and results would be revealed at AASL11. So not only would we be receiving a budget boost, but I would get to attend the conference. I truly thought that AASL in Charlotte would be my first and last, but fortunately that was not the case.

Now I have to admit, flying is a little intimidating to me, but the trip to Minneapolis was overall pleasant. We did arrive on Thursday and as soon as we were able to get into our rooms, we had to get ready to meet the great people from Follett at the Convention Center. In addition to my husband and my principal, I had made arrangements for some truly great friends and colleagues to meet me for the Big Reveal. Kelly Brannock, Jenny Umbarger and Kate Fisher were all there to share this experience with me. It was fantastic to have familiar faces in the crowd.

As we entered the Exhibit Hall, everyone from Follett was lined up to greet us with applause. Soon the announcements began and I got more nervous by the minute. Best Video was announced, then fifth place, then fourth place....Then we were announced as third place for the History Our Way project that I featured in our video. Take a few minutes and see all the great things that are happening in the libraries recognized by Follett in the Follett Challenge. I am honored to be a part of this innovative group of school librarians.

Soon after all winners had been announced the Exhibit Hall opened and there were many who dropped by to convey their congratulations. Many of these were those who I had only met virtually. It is amazing the bonds that can come from online communication.

Part of what emerged at Follett from the challenge was a desire to advocate for school libraries. I have been truly impressed by the plans they have to help others see what we have to offer. Part of being a Follett Challenge winner included a video interview on Friday. I have to admit this is one of my weakest areas and I can only hope that what I had to say is valuable to promoting school libraries. My anxiety during my interview was such that I cannot even tell you what questions were asked. Some of you who know me are probably surprised that I struggle talking to the media. I am very secure in most areas, but sadly this is not one of them.

Friday evening we had an awards dinner at a local restaurant. We were fortunate enough to sit with Todd Litzsinger from Follett. The company and the food were superb. Clips from our videos were shown and we were all again honored. This time we did have to say a few words. I was able to thank my students, my principal, my collaborating teacher, and my amazing husband. All of these contribute to my program in varied ways but without them I would not be able to have the program that exists today.

Thanks to Brandi Heinz Brown for the picture.

Stay tuned tomorrow for my reflections on AASL.....


  1. Congrats, Jennifer, I'm so happy for you!! It's definitely a well deserved award. If it couldn't be me, I'm SO glad that a friend who definitely deserved this honor was able to be a recipient!

    I'm so SO glad we were able to meet and have lunch together at AASL! You rock :)

  2. Thanks Tiff. I have no doubt you will be a finalist next time.

    It was great to meet you in person and I look forward to getting to know you better in the future.

  3. You were wonderful! This is a fantastic write up. I struggled during my interview as well. HAHA I hope we all sound ok. What a fabulous experience to share with such a great group of school library media specialists. KUDOS TO ALL!!!!

  4. Congratulations, Jennifer. What an honor for you and your students.
    All the best,
    Dana Fisher
    Teacher Librarian in High Point NC