Ottawa High School library receives AISLE state award

High school 1 of 2 in the state to earn the award

Ottawa High School librarian/media specialist Kelley Getzelman (left) and principal Pat Leonard display the banner marking the Exemplary School Library Award that OHS received from the Association of Illinois School Library Educators.

Great learning has its roots in its books, and while the Media Center at Ottawa High School does not rely any longer solely on its volumes of pages between hardcovers, it remains a pillar on which that institution’s educational efforts are built.

On Friday, it was recognized as such.

Representatives of the Association of Illinois School Library Educators presented the Exemplary School Library Award to OHS, accepted by its librarian/media specialist Kelley Getzelman and Principal Patrick Leonard.

As one of two schools in the state so honored, Ottawa received a banner and a certificate and will be further recognized at AISLE’s annual conference in Champaign on Oct. 1.

“We’ve never won anything like this before, so I was excited when I found out we won, but when I found out there was only one other winner in the state, I was really excited,” said Getzelman, who noted the only other Illinois recipient was Dryden Elementary School in Arlington Heights. “This is quite a feather in our cap.”

“It’s quite an accomplishment, one of only two libraries in the state,” Leonard said. “This is truly a reflection of all Kelley’s work.”

The award was established in 2018 to recognize school libraries throughout the state of Illinois that exemplify the standards set for by “Links for Learning,” an AISLE program supported by the Illinois Board of Education that sets the standards or school libraries throughout the state.

In order to be eligible, a school must have a full-time licensed librarian and a dedicated school library budget supported by the district, and must submit evidence of exemplary status from the nominee and a district or building administrator.

As schools must apply to receive this award, it took Getzelman roughly two months to complete the former and Leonard the latter.

“One of the things that stands out is that (Getzelman) works with the classroom teachers creating lessons and assessing their success or failure. That doesn’t happen all the time,” said AISLE’s Margaret Burton, who made the presentation. “A lot of times, librarians are invited in to teach a lesson, but they never get to see the other end, how well it did. That’s very outstanding here.

“There’s also the multiple use of the room and how other groups come in and get to use it, the ways it’s designed with moveable furniture. That’s a sign that a school knows that a library is not just for books.”

Getzelman is quick to point out that cooperation made the award possible.

“This all comes down to the support of the administration, the trust the principal has in me and the English Department, which is a huge, huge supporter of all we do in the library. We’ve worked very closely together,” Getzelman said. “One of our goals the last few years is to just get kids to read, to enjoy reading again. Usually that joy is gone by high school, so we have been putting in several programs to reach that goal.”

Among those events is holding a book fair where students can purchase new books, reminiscent of those held when they were in much lower grades, and what she called “book speed dating.” In that, students get to look at six different books in 10 minutes to get them thinking about books and subjects they might be interested in.

“I think kids don’t read as much because as they get older, their school work requires them to read textbooks and science books, so they associate reading with required reading,” Getzelman said. “When they’re required to read an entire novel, if they don’t like the novel, there’s a negative association. There’s also that kids don’t have the time – between school work, sports, clubs and all of that – to read on their own.

“With the English Department, we’ve tried to make time during the day to allow them just to read whatever they want, whether it’s books, graphic novels, newspapers, whatever, as long as they realize there’s no expectation on them other than to read.

“I hear a lot of things like, ‘Hey, this kid who never reads is reading a book’ and teachers hearing them say to friends, ‘Yeah, this is the first book I’ve ever completely read.’ It’s definitely working.”

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