When Amy Jo Southworth was hired as a librarian at Bay Shore High School in 2009, one of her first courses of action was to increase the number of books students checked out at one time.
She initiated a V.I.P. program at the school to encourage students to read more.
“There were students who really wanted to check out more books, so I wanted to reward those students and encourage other students to build lifelong reading habits,” said Southworth, 39, of Sayville.
In return for filling out a questionnaire about their reading habits, students received a V.I.P. card, which allowed them to check out up to five books at a time. For every five books they read they got an incentive or prize, including a bookmark or writing instrument, she said. They also received a tote bag to bring 20 books home for the summer. In April, the library celebrates the student who has read the most books.
For possessing that kind of leadership in the field, Southworth was recently named this year’s American Association of School Librarians’ Frances Henne Award winner. The $1,250 award was established in 1986 for a librarian with up to five years experience who demonstrates leadership qualities.
The prize money allowed Southworth to attend the American Library Association annual conference in Chicago last weekend, and the American Association of School Librarians’ annual conference in Hartford, Conn., in November.
“This field is so dynamic and it’s constantly changing,” she said. “To be able to network, hear from the movers and shakers in the field and get the latest research information is a real benefit and something I’ll be able to bring back to Bay Shore to utilize.”
Southworth is president of the Suffolk School Library Media Association and is an active member of the 2013 class of American Library Association Emerging Leaders.
Before getting her master’s degree in library science in 2009, she was an English teacher at Bay Shore High School for eight years.
Prior to that she spent two years teaching on a Navajo reservation in New Mexico and undergraduate classes at New Mexico State University.
Duncan MacDougal, a 9th grade English teacher at Bay Shore High School, said he’s always been impressed by Southworth’s advocacy of student readers.
“I had students come to her who had never finished a book outside of class and she easily connected with them to find books that interested them,” said MacDougal, 30, of Sayville.
Because of her drive and passion in the librarian field, MacDougal said he wasn’t surprised Southworth was recognized.
“When I found out she won the award, I was extremely excited, but I wasn’t shocked” MacDougal said. “She definitely deserves all the credit in the world. She’s amazing.”