When Sheri McNair, library media specialist at James I. O’Neill High School in Highland Falls, NY, came to her district four years ago, she stepped into a very traditional space that was mostly taken up by free-standing stacks of books, traditional wooden tables, and eight computers that “needed to go,” she laughs.
|Talking and collaborating are encouraged at the James I. O’Neill High School library.|
McNair quickly realized that she was spending most of her time scraping the heavy wooden desks across the floor, rearranging the space to encourage classes to come in. So the first thing she did was move the freestanding stacks. “I put the books around the perimeter, which opened up a ton of space. Instant improvement!”
Over the next three years, McNair completely renovated the space, adding carpet tiles, rolling chairs and tables with whiteboard tops, 50 computers, and 60 Samsung Chromebooks. She converted an old classroom into an innovation room by attaching white frosted acrylic panels to three walls and adding pub tables, chairs, banquettes, a TV, and acoustic panels. There are mini makerspace stations with Legos and craft materials, board games, puzzles, a SMART Board, and an 80-inch monitor that’s used for movie nights.
|Westlake High School students love hanging out in their library’s Juice Bar.|
“I inherited an outdated space with lots of rules—no talking, no food, no backpacks, no devices,” says McNair. “Now it’s a multifunctional space where students socialize and collaborate. They bring their lunch and their work. It’s theirlibrary.”
Need any proof that a library transformation is worth the time and money? In 2011–12, the year before McNair came on board, students chose to visit the library during study halls, lunch, and after school a total of 6,784 times. Last year, after the library was renovated, students came to the library, on their own time, a total of 24,610 times.
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