School Libraries Redesign to Promote Comfort, Collaboration

The “Digital Divide” is apparently not far along in using digital devices to replace venerable libraries as complete one-stop information sources.

The devices have instead turned into tools to promote student collaboration during school hours in libraries as they also bring them in after school to continue conversations with friends, finish homework or just hang out to share digital games with each other.

The completed redesign of the Grand Avenue Middle School is the latest district project now incorporating open-space seating that draws students into the library to work on homework on their laptops, or chat with friends while texting on soft cushion chairs.

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Principal Carl Conti called the new library “a student-driven space,” explaining that integral to the new design is furniture: “Furniture for working, and furniture for discussion and collaboration.”

New modular tables can be configured for a variety of seats, for two students up to 12 and more, or the size of a classroom. Low-height cushioned chairs tackle a more “comfortable” assertion that students can retain more information when seated in low-height cushioned chairs often found in living rooms.

Mary Donnelly, English Chairperson at Grand Avenue Middle School and Mepham High School, told Your NewsMag that studies have found comfortable seating becomes an indispensible aid to both study and retention.  “Students do have preferences,” she asserted. “Let the library be a comfortable place to read,” she said.

Conti explained that in the new library students come in, sit at a table to work on homework, and then migrate to a cushioned chair to text leisurely on smartphones while resting between assignments, or to read hard-cover books and magazines.  The comfy chairs, like tables, are not fixed to the floor, and can be moved from one area of the library to the next to increase pod seating “if several friends come in to join in conversation,” Conti said.

Eighth-grade student Danny Shami, doing homework on his laptop during his lunch break – in which several lunch passes are given to students to come to the library after lunch, said, “It’s a comfortable place to come, and I can read what I want on the cushioned chairs.” Eighth-grader Sam Lackman also called it a “great place to do work.”

Both said the library during lunch becomes a place they can catch up or finish homework assignments from earlier periods.

Seventh-graders Taryn Gilman and Gabby Friscia were in from lunch, both sitting on a two-seated cushioned chair, chatting with one another as they texted other friends to make plans.

GAMS librarian Roseanne Walker, a part-time librarian also at the North Bellmore Public Library, said students often arrange cushioned chairs in a circular fashion, and then retrieve Chromebooks from a modular cabinet, and play collaborative games or communicate in other ways with one another in a fun setting.

2018-02-09 13.37.26SMART boards are fostering classroom collaboration and participation

Most impressive are the new collaborative methods the school has employed that now permit classes, such as an eighth-grade English class and a social studies class, to study together. Using a SMART board, both an English teacher and a social studies teacher can present curriculum materials from each class on the board – such as a novel with references to historical events that can be borne out in social studies – which students can receive on their phones as a copy. Without taking notes, the students have the exact plans from the SMART boards now on their phones to refer to when completing class assignments.


A donation of $234,000 from a Kennedy alumnus specifically for a library redesign will complete the district’s long-standing march toward redesigning the five middle and senior high school libraries. After the upgrade, all school libraries will utilize the student-driven open-planning space to attract students into an environment that mirrors such public venues as Barnes & Noble and Starbuck’s for its leisureliness in encouraging conversation and discussion while actually ensconced in work.

Kennedy English Chair Adeline Atkins said the new Kennedy library will be more of an “innovation lab,” a designer showcase that will include a 3D printer, a media center, jacks for phones while featuring the same modular furniture. “The high school library will become a great hub of social activity when complete,” she concluded.


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