Library director selected for Rural Library Fellowship

Published 12:01 pm Friday, July 16, 2021

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BEREA, Ky. – Savannah Kitchens, director of Parnell Memorial Library in Montevallo, has been selected as one of 22 Rural Library Fellows by Partners for Education and Save the Children.

The Rural Library Fellowship is an initiative designed to improve third-grade reading outcomes in rural communities.

Research indicates children who have not mastered the mechanics of reading by the end of third grade face significant barriers to higher education access and success.


This includes being four times more likely to drop out of high school compared to peers who are reading proficiently when they finish third grade.

“The Rural Library Fellowship will provide an invaluable opportunity to cultivate librarians as change-makers and libraries as key partners in their communities, especially around third grade reading outcomes,” said Regina R. Washington, director of Rural Impact Networks at Partner for Education.

Through the fellowship, librarians will receive peer consultation, leadership development and coaching, and funding to implement the strategies they develop.

The Fellows will engage in intensive community of practice with other librarians from rural regions in 19 states across the country.

The learning community is designed to support the librarians in developing strategies and leading work in their community to improve the lives of children and families.

“I’m looking forward to working closely with each of our 22 Rural Library Fellows to create action plans tailored to the needs of their community,” said Partner for Education’s Wendy Johnston, who will lead the training sessions.

The training will be provided through twice-monthly webinars and one-on-one consultations.

Johnston, who previously worked in rural libraries in Kentucky and West Virginia, said she is excited to use my knowledge of rural libraries and librarians to help others better serve their communities.”

Fellows will receive a stipend to offset the costs of participation, including travel expenses, and an additional $5,000 award from Save the Children to implement a plan to increase third grade reading outcomes.

“Save the Children works with over 200 of rural America’s most impoverished communities, helping to meet children’s unmet needs. Libraries in rural areas are uniquely positioned to serve as community anchors for young learners. That’s why we are so excited to be a part of this initiative,” said Lesley Graham, senior director of Community Impact at Save the Children. “By focusing on third grade reading, that critical year when kids transition from learning to read to reading to learn, we’re confident the Rural Library Fellows will have the tools, skills and resources they need to build lifelong learners and set children up for success.”

The Rural Library Fellowship program will run for two years, from July 2021 to June 2023.

In year one, there will be 12 months of capacity building and training webinars, one-on-one coaching and technical assistance, as well as peer-to-peer and in-person learning opportunities.

The second year will focus on implementing plans created by the Fellows that are tailored to the needs of their communities.