Notre Dame hopes updated library strengthens student literacy


By Celine Klosterman
BURLINGTON — Gone are the uncomfortable chairs and century-old unread books.
In their places are modern furniture and new computers, beckoning students into a decades-old library that underwent its first major redesign this past summer. There are a new drop ceiling, fresh paint and additional views of the outdoors thanks to the removal of office walls that blocked window light.
The updates at Notre Dame Middle/Senior High School were inspired by the School Improvement Advisory Committee, a group including staff, students, parents and a board of education member. Last school year, the committee was exploring how to enhance students’ 21st-century literacy skills.
“We had some deficits in our access to print on campus, so we took on the library to meet that goal,” said Katie Gavin, president of Notre Dame’s board of education. “We asked, ‘How can we keep this small space functional, improve access to print and entice kids to be comfortable here?’”
To answer that question, Notre Dame sought student feedback and worked with three librarians from Burlington public schools and Southeastern Community College (SCC).
“We had books in our library from 1905 that had never been checked out,” Gavin said. But “to just refurnish a library with new books is very expensive.” So the Great Prairie Area Education Agency agreed to give Notre Dame students access to its educational resources. Now, students can request to borrow books the agency owns and look up journal and magazine articles through its online database.
Students can do such research on one of several new desktops or a half-dozen Chromebook computers at the library, which now offers wireless Internet connectivity.
The room looks much better, too, said freshman Jonathan Gavin, son of Katie Gavin. “I see more people going there every day to use it.”
Before this summer, the library “was like a portal to 1956,” the year it was built, Brian McAtee said. A leader of the remodeling project, he is a Notre Dame parent and SCC librarian.
During a focus group meeting, Jonathan sketched a redesign that included a “hangout area” with a couch, additional tables and more outlets for laptops. Students and parents volunteered manual labor to bring that sketch to life, removing shelving; adding new carpet, tall tables and ceiling fans; and knocking out the top half of walls that surrounded the checkout desk. The library now has a more open feel, Gavin said.
Notre Dame debuted the remodeled interior during an open house before school began in August. “Everyone loved it,” McAtee said.
The project cost a little under $30,000, Gavin said. It was paid for by the bequest of the late Gene Fedler, the Mahoney trust and school maintenance funds.

Students study in the newly remodeled library at Notre Dame Middle/Senior High School in Burlington.

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