Some may picture a high school library as an outdated room with dusty books and few students. But enter the library at Eaglecrest High School and it’s an environment more similar to a college library.
Students lounge in comfortable seating in a sunny atrium. Other students work on their computers at charging stations. Some check out iPod nanos at the front desk for audiobook listening.
At Eaglecrest, the library is a place students want to be.
“We’ll do anything to get students reading,” says teacher-librarian Kristin McKeown.
McKeown and her fellow teacher-librarian Hollie Hawkins, both Stapleton residents, have made the library an inviting and safe place, while also establishing an academic standard.
Eaglecrest, located in the Cherry Creek school district, was recently named the 2014 National School Library Program of the year by the American Association of School Librarians (AASL). The organization annually recognizes a school for an exceptional library environment that is fully integrated into the entire school. The winning school receives a symbol of excellence and $10,000 for the library program.
“We’re making a difference for students professionally and academically, and ultimately their lives,” McKeown says.
Rather than librarians, McKeown and Hawkins are teacher-librarians because they train colleagues how to integrate the library into the curriculum. McKeown previously taught high school English and Hawkins taught elementary, so they both have classroom experience.
Eaglecrest is focused on reading, and the results are making a difference. The school reports a strong correlation between the number of book checkouts and ACT reading scores. Both have steadily increased over the past eight years.
“We’re lucky enough to work in a school and a district that supports the need for a library,” Hawkins says.
The $10,000 will go toward more books, a summer reading program and e-books and additional staffing.
Beyond academic reading, McKeown and Hawkins collaborate to keep students enthused about reading as a hobby. They host book talks and a book club. They offer more than 150 Kindles for students to check out and read e-books. They also coordinate with the local public library.
McKeown is a self-professed fantasy geek and jokes if there is a map at the beginning of a book then you know it’s going to be good. Hawkins enjoys a wider range of books, mostly fiction. The two occasionally carpool from their Stapleton homes, but most of the time they each don’t want to risk interrupting the audio book waiting in the car.