Through Beyond Words Grant, School Libraries Provide Resources for Recovery from Natural Disasters


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By Steve Zalusky

Newspapers and television news outlets have provided extensive coverage of the recent weather emergencies and subsequent rescue efforts.

In these times, it is important to remember that libraries have played a role in the recovery of communities hard hit by recent storms.

One resource that has helped libraries in their efforts has been the American Association of School Librarians' Beyond Words Grant, funded by the Dollar General Literacy Foundation.

In 2006, Dollar General, in collaboration with the American Library Association (ALA), AASL (a division of ALA) and the National Education Association (NEA), began sponsoring a school library disaster relief fund for public school libraries in the states served by Dollar General. To date, more than more than $1.2 million dollars in grants have been awarded to more than 130 schools across the country.

Among those who received grants recently was the library at the Herald Whitaker Middle School in Salyersville, Ky (pictured above).

Library Media Specialist Connie Hale said that on March 2, the school was hit by a tornado that tore a hole in the top of the roof.

"It wiped out the library completely," she said.

school library destoyed by tornado

The middle school relocated to nearby Magoffin County High School, but, although the insurance company initially felt the school library's books were salvageable, Hale said, "We had someone to advise us to get rid of all those books that they moved up here, because they were contaminated, and we don’t want anybody sick."

Hale said the school library was seeking donations - with Hale hand processing each one of them and "holding my breath the entire time as to whether or not I was going to have enough books for each child to choose one book" - when she decided to seek a grant.

The Beyond Words grant was a natural fit, she said, because it was offered to public schools located within 20 miles of a Dollar General store.

"We had two within a couple miles," she said.

Within two weeks of applying, the school received a grant, she said.

As a result of the grant, she was able to fulfill the students' wish list.

"They are very excited," she said. "They are actually going to get to read books that they want to read."

She added that dollars from the grant were also used to buy computers for children to take accelerated reader tests and conduct research.

Grants can be used to replace or supplement books, media and/or library equipment a can also be used to offset costs by those schools that have opened their doors to significant numbers of new students displaced by disaster.

For more information about the AASL Beyond Words Grant funded by the Dollar General Literacy Foundation, see

The website contains linked resources for school librarians and students to use while recovering from a natural disaster. Links include guides to facilities and funding, recovery and repair of damaged materials, and helping students cope and process their experiences. Resources can be accessed at


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