Transforming from Library to Learning Commons
Since taking over as the librarian at the high school, Kirsten Fournier has transformed the space and services for students and staff. Last year, she introduced a maker space but this summer saw a more substantial change. Outdated texts were culled from the collection and donated wherever possible, opening up more physical space for a whole new look and feel and the response has been positive.
She had originally thought making over the library would happen in multiple phases. While there have been phases, this was a significant opportunity for change.
“Last year, Evan Bishop, the principal, decided that he wanted to see some of the changes I had proposed in my first year here. Then we decided to try and change as much as we can,” Fournier said.
As a result, Fournier decided to apply for a Hopkinton Education Foundation (HEF) grant to fund a more expansive vision. HEF funded a $21,000 remodel that included flexible seating furniture, whiteboards, and collaborative workstations. Combined with some paint and new large screen displays fitted with Apple TVs, the push from library to learning commons continues.
“We could not have done this without their generosity and support. I think they really understood our vision and were really supportive of helping us realize that vision,” Fournier said.
“We’re excited to have the opportunity to reinvent our library space into a more flexible learning environment that we feel will better meets our instructional needs and fosters collaboration between students. We feel like we did that with the help of the HEF,” Principal Evan Bishop said.
Students have already seen the changes as positive. Senior Emily Mastrianni said, ““I think the changes are really cool. It makes it more modern and bringing this day and age into the school. It also provides for more social interaction, like helping each other with class projects.”
Fellow senior Jon DeBenedetto, commenting on the changes, said, “It adds new life and makes it a lot more comfortable, which is really good for an ever-changing school. The chairs are definitely more comfortable to read. There are more functional spaces too.”
Since space is not a neutral factor, there have already been some additional immediate benefits.
Library Assistant Charleen Belcher said, “At first glance, you would think that it lends itself to a more casual feel but the opposite has really happened. The students have taken the opportunity to take the space and use it the way that they need.”
Since a lot of the furniture is on wheels, it can be reconfigured quickly and easily. “We see different formations throughout the day depending on how the kids want to work,” Fournier said. “The movement happens organically.”
Mobile whiteboards serve as dividers and larger presentation surfaces for student use. “I was watching people use the whiteboard for math which was really helpful. It was easier to understand when the work could be presented like that,” Mastroianni said.
“I think we have really opened up the space and created nice pockets of learning for the students. Previously, the space was pretty linear, almost like one big space. Now they have different seating options with the chairs with tables attached. There are the group areas with Apple TVs and the lounge spaces and, as always, the typical table and chair options,” Belcher said.
The Makerspace has also been moved out onto the main floor of the library instead of being in the back room. It now occupies the nook that used to house literary criticism collection, making it more visually available to students.
Ultimately, the new vision for a learning commons is well underway. As education and the world changes the high school will continue to look for ways to reflect those changes and the students will continue to benefit.
“They have embraced the changes and the hard work that went into making these changes,“ Belcher said. “The level of respect for the library has skyrocketed.”