Library serves as an inclusive space for all

Everyone is absolutely welcome.

That’s the way GBS library staff want students to feel.

“It’s a learning space for everyone,” said Sharon Sheehan, instructional coach. “We want everyone to feel their needs are being met here.”

Whether students need to study independently, meet for a group project, curl up with a good book, or unwind with a puzzle, the library is the place to be. It was recently featured by CollectivED for its vibrant and inclusive space

Looking past the 2011 renovation and new furniture, staff incorporated classroom instructional strategy – setting and teaching expectations – which has allowed the space the thrive, Sheehan said.

A challenge staff previously faced was creating productive areas for all types of students in a single level of space.

“A lot of libraries are multi-level; we have just one level,” said Kris Jacobson, teacher and librarian. “Therefore, we had to create different zones for different people, and instead of installing walls we worked with instructional coaches to make expectations clear to students. We feel good about what we are communicating to the students and the space has been greatly evolving.”

Jacobson said lunch blocks are the busiest time in the library, followed by before-school hours, and several more students drop in after school.

“There aren’t many other spaces in the school to focus on studying or to be alone, except for the library,” she said. “We are meeting physical needs, socio-emotional needs and study needs.”

Christi Shaner, head librarian, was charged with planning out the space. She gathered information from students on how they used the library and what they were looking for more of.

“The data supported a need for an independent study area,” she said. “It’s true. On the very first day of school, before the school day had even started, students were here doing work.” 

The feedback also showed a need for a space students could relax and socialize in, Shaner said.

“Not only socialize, but work while they socialize,” she added.

More than 2,500 students visit the library daily. Shaner said a lot of students are surprised by how “big and open” it is. 

“It feels like a college library, which is good for their transition into college,” she said.

Erin Han, junior, is one student who finds herself visiting the library quite often.

“I first visited about four or five months into my freshman year,” Han said. “I wanted to find a quiet place in the school to work because I’m easily distracted by friends and conversations.”

Han said she was surprised by how productive she could be in the library.

“It’s quiet, even with groups meeting around you,” she said. “It’s easy to block out the background noise when you’re in your own cubicle.”

Han said she also appreciates how it’s not “deafening quiet,” as that would be counterproductive for her. 

“I distract myself if it’s way too quiet somewhere,” she said. “Nothing is completely segregated here and I like that. It’s welcoming and cozy.”
Library serves as an inclusive space for all