St. Linus unveils updated library, honors librarian

By Daniel P. Smith | Contributor
Sunday, January 26, 2014

Students use tablets that are part of the new library and media center at St. Linus School in Oak Lawn. The new library also has on display a poster of the five Sullivan brothers, the “Fighting Sullivans,” sent by Kelly Sullivan, granddaughter of Al Sullivan, to remind students to honor our veterans. (Karen Callaway/Catholic New World)

Over the course of 27 years, Fran Leahy shepherded the growth of St. Linus School library, transforming the educational space from its makeshift home inside a utility closet to a vital hub of student learning.

“The library to her was the heart of the school,” Joe Leahy said of his mother.

Recognizing this, Joe Leahy knew just what he had to do when his mother passed away in October 2012 at the age of 91. He honored his mother’s memory by supporting the library she founded in 1965 and directed until 1992.

That generosity has now given the Oak Lawn elementary school an updated library complete with a cozy reading area for primary grade students, award-winning literature and iPad tablets. In recognition of Fran Leahy’s contributions to the school through four different decades, St. Linus tabbed the refreshed space The Fran Leahy Memorial Library.

“In her life, education and reading were a priority and to carry on what she started and allow the library to take the next step in its evolution is very important to my family and I,” said Joe Leahy, a 1972 St. Linus graduate.

Prior to Joe Leahy’s donation, the 370 student school’s library was a rather traditional space defined by its hardcover books and bulky furniture. Leahy’s support has thrust the library into the 21st century.

The introduction of 30 iPad II tablets provides students immediate access to a world of knowledge, fostering cross-curriculum research as well as individual and group work. By leveraging a diverse array of programs and apps across various academic study areas, including math, science, history, art and geography, students can expand their knowledge while enjoying relevant and purpose-driven interaction with technology.

“We’re connecting students to real-time learning, so that’s exciting for our students as well as our teachers,” St. Linus School principal Michael Stritch said.

A new reading area for the primary grades features carpeting, a rocking chair and an expanded collection of the award winning literature Leahy so treasured as a way to build children’s character, knowledge and passion for discovery.

Completing the library’s updated look sits an oil-on-canvas portrait of St. Francis of Assisi — Fran Leahy’s patron saint — created by professional artist and Leahy family member Beth England Leahy. A library plaque also carries the Prayer of St. Francis, which is now recited by St. Linus students at the beginning of each class held in the Fran Leahy Memorial Library.

Like many of her fellow St. Linus schoolmates, student Katie Pappas, 13, was wowed by the library’s updated look and the arrival of the iPads.

“It is exciting to be in the Fran Leahy Library and discover with the tools that keep our attention and challenge us at all levels," Pappas said.

Dedicated this past Oct. 4, Leahy’s birthday as well as the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, The Fran Leahy Memorial Library honors a woman who embraced Catholic teachings, strong values and standards of excellence over more than a quarter-century at St. Linus.

“The library was Fran’s passion and hundreds of students benefited from her presence here,” St. Linus development director Joanice Kellam said. “She saw literature as a vehicle for students to learn how they might develop themselves and help others.”


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