Shawnee Public Schools receives library COVID relief grant

Elisabeth Slay
The Shawnee News-Star

Shawnee Public Schools was awarded a $40,000 grant from the American Library Association COVID Library Relief Fund to be used for various library resources.

According to Cherity Pennington, SPS library services coordinator, only 15 percent of all applicants from different types of libraries received awards, and only 10 school districts nationwide received the grant.

"The benefit to the district is astounding. First, we were able to expand our e-reference, eBook and audio book materials for all Shawnee students, but especially for our younger learners," Pennington said. "These electronic resources will help all our students develop their reading and media literacy skills, and we know these are the skills that are imperative to becoming college and career ready."

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Shawnee Public Schools Instructional Coaches are dedicated to improving education for students and educators in the district.

Pennington explained the district was also able to invest a portion of the grant into an expanded print collection for the elementary libraries.

"Despite the support our district provides to our libraries, the rising cost of library books makes maintaining an updated collection very difficult, so the grant allowed us to almost double what we spend on print materials each year in our elementary libraries," she said.

The elementary students now have access to more updated books than ever before.

In addition to the print collection, Pennington said the electronic research databases, ebooks and audiobooks are accessible to every Shawnee student pre-kindergarten through twelfth grade.

"Plus, because the resources are available online, the library is truly available to our students 24 hours a day," Pennington said.

She explained while students have access to their resources they need librarians to help them understand how to properly use them.

"I am thankful SPS has a full-time, highly qualified school librarian in every library, so our students have the benefit not only of the extra learning resources but also the school librarians who can expertly teach them how to use them," she said.

According to Superintendent Dr. April Grace, she is thankful to the ALA for helping the district provide these new resources to students.

"Our district highly supports its libraries already, but this grant has allowed us to invest beyond our scope in electronic resources and maker spaces," Grace said. "I firmly believe these resources will serve as a catalyst to broaden students' interest in entrepreneurship, engineering, and other career interests. The fact that we were one of only 10 school districts nationwide to receive this grant is humbling."

Pennington said this ALA Grant allows the district to better an essential part of every student's education.

Going forward, Pennington hopes Shawnee students will continue to have more access to quality learning resources.