Amesville reading-Vancouver

This photo, taken by Ohio University photojournalism major Kate Vancouver, is one of about 50 on display in the library at Amesville Elementary School.

Photo courtesy of: Kate Vancouver

Amesville reading-Reilly

This photo, taken by Ohio University photojournalism major Lucas Reilly, is one of about 50 on display at the Amesville Elementary School library.

Photo courtesy of: Lucas Reilly

Amesville Library

Photos taken by OHIO students Kate Vancouver and Lucas Reilly adorn the walls of the library at Amesville Elementary School.

Photo courtesy of: Amesville Elementary School

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Local elementary school partners with OHIO students to inspire reading

Photomural decorates Amesville Elementary School library

Amesville Elementary School librarian Linda Cochran began volunteering at the Athens County school in February 2013 in response to a plea from one of its teachers. At the time, the school’s library was not open for class visits and had no regular staffing, and unlike the nearby communities of Glouster, The Plains, Chauncey and Coolville, there is no public library in the village of Amesville.

A retired children's librarian with 30 years of experience, Cochran embarked on a three-pronged approach to revitalize the school’s library. She felt that it was of the utmost importance to update the library’s collection, to recruit a consistent group of volunteers to help expand access to the library, and to develop an open and welcoming atmosphere.

“I wanted students in the library all the time, and when students came into the space, I wanted them to see themselves and their classmates reading – a metamessage of sorts,” Cochran said of her goal to create an open and welcoming atmosphere.

To accomplish that goal, Cochran turned to Ohio University. Last spring, she reached out to Larry Hamel-Lambert, an associate professor in the Scripps College of Communication’s School of Visual Communication. Cochran sought Hamel-Lambert’s help in identifying School of Visual Communication students who would be interested in creating a photomural that captured the mission of the school’s library – discovering the joy of reading. Her hope was that if students were met with images of their peers reading when they entered the library, they might be inspired to read more often.

Cochran solicited the help of Amesville Elementary School Principal Lisa Imel, who helped develop the project.

“The library is the center of a school, the heart so to speak, and it’s just like the human body. When you have a heart that’s working and pumping and flowing and doing the job it’s designed to do, the human body functions better,” Imel said. “I believe that when we have a library that’s functioning at a top level, the school functions at its top level. We were excited to bring the heartbeat back to our school.”

Kate Vancouver and Lucas Reilly, both OHIO sophomores majoring in photojournalism, were students in Hamel-Lambert’s VICO1021 course.

“Lucas and Kate immediately came to mind (for this project), and they accepted the invitation without hesitation,” Hamel-Lambert said. “It was great to see our students have an eager interest in a community-based project. They are outstanding School of Visual Communication students who are seriously engaged in their education, and both are very outgoing people.”

Vancouver and Reilly are also both from the area, creating a personal tie to this particular project. Vancouver, who knew Hamel-Lambert prior to taking his course, said she is always willing to photograph for a good cause, and especially to help out a friend. Reilly, who met Cochran at a young age when his mother actively volunteered at the Athens Public Library, also viewed this opportunity as much more than a simple act of service.

“Between the network of individuals involved and the students represented in the images (we captured), it is really an extension of the community,” Reilly said of the project. “Beyond that, the work paints reading in a positive light so that kids will want to read. Working with the kids at the library let me help my community in a way I never thought would be possible with my photography, and also help out Mrs. Cochran who was an important part of my childhood growing up here in Athens.”

To begin the project, Vancouver and Reilly visited the library to get a feel for its lighting, space and the people they would be photographing. They also met with Cochran to discuss her vision. Wanting to ensure that students of all ages were represented in the photos, Vancouver and Reilly created a plan for shooting their photos based on each of the grade’s class schedules. The pair captured all of their desired shots in one day and, after toning, cropping and editing their respective photos, selected the best of the bunch to send to Hamel-Lambert and Cochran for printing.

Today, about 50 photos taken by Vancouver and Reilly are on display in the school’s library, and feedback on the project has been overwhelmingly positive.

“If the project helps to motivate just one more student to read, it will be a great success,” Hamel-Lambert said. “Lucas and Kate should be very proud of the work that they have done, as both photographers and community volunteers. In community-based projects, everyone wins. The students get great experience and a chance to meet new people in the community. The community gets help from students to make projects happen. Kate and Lucas have set a great example for other Ohio University students to follow.”

“When you look up and see your classmates reading, it’s inspiring, and our goal here is to create a culture where reading and learning are respected, loved and appreciated,” Imel said of the project’s influence on the children. “This is the unwritten curriculum. We’re not saying that they have to go read, but we’re impressing upon them the joy of reading and how it’s a benefit and a skill that they’ll use for their entire life.”

In addition to improving the atmosphere of the library, Cochran has also made significant inroads on her other goals. An aide now opens the library for at least 90 minutes each day, and all of the school’s classes have the opportunity to schedule weekly visits to the library. Cochran hosted library orientations for each class at the start of the school year, and school officials are working to incorporate programming, such as its upcoming College and Career Day, to further enhance the library experience. In September, the library’s collection surpassed 1,400 books, and Imel fully anticipates that number to continue to grow.

“Projects like this, specifically surrounding reading, create an impact by providing an opportunity to expand the lens of the entire community,” Imel said, noting the potential effect the project could have outside of the school. “It doesn’t matter how wealthy you are or how little money you have, if you know how to read, you have knowledge at your fingertips, and that’s absolutely priceless.”

This special Compass series features the programs and initiatives through which Ohio University students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends are realizing their promise as they elevate lives across the region. These people-focused success stories take you behind the scenes and highlight the many meaningful ways OHIO serves society by supporting educational, economic, creative and wellness endeavors, as well as other humanitarian efforts.