ATLANTIC CITY — Library media specialist Jennifer Jamison returned to Pennsylvania Avenue School on Thursday to receive an award for the work she did there to make the library a learning haven for children.

Scott Chain, vice president of marketing and industry relations for Follett, presented Jamison with a 2013 Library of the Year award from the American Association of School Librarians. The school library was one of three in the nation to receive the award this year, which also comes with a $10,000 check for the library.

Chain said the award winners are chosen by librarians and demonstrate successful 21st century school libraries.

“There is a concern that school libraries are struggling,” he said. He said the national Project Connect program has been working to promote the importance of school libraries and professional librarians.

Jamison transferred this year to Atlantic City High School, where she is working with librarian Veronica Gaskill and aide Denise Demaio to implement programs to involve more students in the library. She said it is a popular place for students, with as many as 60 or 70 coming in during lunch.

“Now I’m spending time learning about AP English authors rather than picture books,” she said.

In her acceptance speech, Jamison talked about how urban school libraries can help children express their individualism and learn about the world around them.

“It is pivotal and transforming,” she said. “Through the doors of the school library, children become independent thinkers.”

Jamison noted that some visitors have been surprised to find such an elaborate library in an urban school, even a new one such as Pennsylvania Avenue. Jamison credited district Superintendent Donna Haye and district technology and media staff for their support of her projects. Haye said this year is the first time an urban library has received the national award.

After the awards ceremony, students at Pennsylvania Avenue School eagerly showed off their latest project and explained how they set up a shelf for graphic novels so they would catch students’ attention.

“I just told them to make the shelf appealing, and they went with it,” said their new librarian, Jamie VanArtsdalen.

VanArtsdalen is continuing many of Jamison’s programs, including a popular Library Lunch program that lets students come to the library after eating lunch. As many as 80 students per day will choose to come to the library, giving up after-lunch recess. Jamison recalled being told that some students would trade treats for a library lunch pass.

Student library assistants said they love helping the younger children, shelving books, and, of course, reading. The library includes a cozy reading area with comfortable chairs and the tables surrounded by chairs that rock. The library has tablet readers and online resources, including Destiny Quest, that allow students to search for books and recommend them to others.

“It’s extremely awesome,” said Yawar Khan, 10, who comes about twice a week at lunch, and after school.

Contact Diane D’Amico:

609-272-7241

More than 30 years’ experience reporting and editing for newspapers and magazines in Illinois, Colorado, Texas and New Jersey and 1985 winner of the Texas Daily Newspaper Association’s John Murphy Award for copy editing.