Green Mountain library poised for major renovation

By Rebecca Salem

When students return to Green Mountain Union High School following Spring Break at the end of April, they’ll find a renovated, rehabbed and rewired library that Principal Tom Ferenc hopes will offer them a modern and comfortable learning environment that fosters interaction.

The $100,000 renovation, which is expected to take two weeks – from April 16 to 27, will include central air-conditioning, new furniture, carpeting and shorter bookshelves, said school administrative assistant Brendan McNamara, who is managing the project. So far, contracts have been awarded to School Specialty, an online school supplies company, for furniture; Carpet King & Tile of Springfield will supply and install the new carpeting; Cool Connections of Proctorsville will install the central air; and Pete’s Painting of Ludlow will repaint the walls.

A grand opening is set for early June. The money was made available thanks to a surplus in the school budget, Ferenc said.

The primary motivation for embracing this “Learning Commons” library concept, said Ferenc is to “improve learning for all students” by “accommodating students who need to problem-solve, create and collaborate in a project based learning environment.” He added, “These are the skills employers are looking for, they want students who can think, who can problem-solve, who understand team-work and are able to report out to a larger audience.”

As an example of project based learning, “Damages from Hurricane Irene: This is a real world problem that students can explore and report back on. What sorts of chemicals are out there? What’s happening with the life in the river? Some kids can write, some can film, others can research, they can Skype and bring-in experts from the community and from around the world.”

The new library will be composed of four primary areas: the community common, the e-learning (electronic learning) common, a quiet reading area and a cyber cafe.

  • The community common will have classroom style tables and chairs arranged around a wireless computer screen mounted on the wall, allowing several classes of students to engage in cross-curricular learning by sharing their work and research. It will also have a projector.
  • The e-learning common, which will have 25 hand-held wireless devices – most likely I-Pads, is designed to integrate today’s students’ natural ability with technology by encouraging on-line research, sharing work on Google Docs, using Weebly to create websites and blogs and increase their access to on-line courses not available at the school.
  • The quiet reading area will be furnished with several soft upholstered chairs for reading.
  • And the cyber cafe– unlike a Starbucks, no coffee will be served – is a less formal sitting area furnished with tall tables and chairs and another wireless screen that Ferenc said can be used to “announce school events, post the daily calendar or show the school play.”  Click on each image below to enlarge.

The school had hired library consultant Pam Harland of Plymouth, N.H., author of The Learning Commons: Seven Simple Steps to Transform Your Library,” to help with the project. And last spring, Ferenc began visiting schools with newly built or recently updated libraries.

The library will be culling its books. “The collection hasn’t been updated in the past three to five years, there are books that are outdated …we will go from 14,000 to 9,000 and then max out at about 10,000 maximum with an updated and more current collection,” Ferenc said. He added that new stacks will be about half the height they are now. “Many of our students are small,”  he said,  “and they can’t reach the books.” The shorter shelves also will increase the overall visibility and openness in the library.

Ferenc said the library project is important when planning for a “future of shrinking student populations and possible school closings, these kinds of improvements are necessary to ensure our school will be here for a long time.” He added that the school would like to open the new library in the summer for adult education uses.


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About the Author: Rebecca Salem lives with her family in Chester. She is the director of development for the Windham Child Care Association and will be receiving her MFA from Bennington College in June 2013.

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