Local middle and high school students were in for a big surprise when they returned to classes this year. While they were enjoying their summer vacation, major changes were being made at the Oyster Bay-East Norwich School District’s high school library — so much so that the facility was completely transformed.
The newly painted library now has new carpeting. But what sets it apart from the former library, and no doubt many school libraries, is the furniture. There are different kinds of tables — high-top, six-sided and small movable tables. The majority of the chairs roll, and the room includes several couches, too.
“We asked the experts when deciding which types of furniture to buy,” said Dr. Lisa Mulhall, the assistant superintendent for curriculum, instruction and assessment. “We already had high tables in the gym lobby, and the kids loved them, so we knew they’d love them in the library too.”
“Libraries are all about flexible spacing these days,” she added.
“And flexible spacing mirrors what students will experience outside of high school,” said Superintendent Laura Seinfeld. “In the workspace, people don’t sit in cubicles anymore.”
The changes at the library were made possible by County Legislator Don Mac-Kenzie, who made available a $150,000 grant.
Students have been excited about the new library since the first day of school.
“It’s comfy here,” said Grace Ievolella, 15, sitting on one of the couches. “And it’s great because you don’t have to be sitting at a desk all day.”
Lindsey Purcell, 15, and Joycelin Wong sat at one of the six-sided tables.
“I was shocked when I first saw the new library,” Joycelin said. “We’ve always worked at the long tables. When working in a group, it’s a lot easier to communicate with these tables than sitting in a line.”
“There’s more space in general,” Grace added. “With the shape of the table, you can see everyone at the table. I do like the high tables, too. They’re kind of different.”
The library, now boasting the school colors — purple and gold — is nice, but it is also designed for educational purposes. “Students learn today with more collaboration, utilizing many different types of information,” Seinfeld said. “We wanted our new library to enable them to be prepared for the different types of learning they’ll experience in the future, outside of traditional classroom learning.”
Six additional computers have been ordered for the innovative lab, an area to the right as you walk into the library, which will enable students to edit photos and music. A wall cabinet, also on order, will house two 3D printers, which will augment the school’s technology curriculum. The lab will allow for “research across all of the different disciplines,” Seinfeld said.
Craig Marlow, who teaches earth science and environmental science, said that the library would make his classes more productive. “I can now see what they’re all doing during their online learning, because they’re in one spot,” he said. “And the six-sided tables allow for group work. The students can see what the others are doing.”
Librarian Christopher Weber also said he believes the library will benefit the students. “The multiple learning center and innovation space will allow for the students to create independently, with multimedia learning,” he said.
The students love the openness of the space, Weber added. “I get feedback that it looks like a college library.”
The public is invited to attend the ribbon cutting for the library on Oct. 17 at 7:30 p.m. There will be light refreshments.