Something’s missing from the ThunderRidge High School library.
Instead of the shelves of books that typically consume most of the space in a traditional library, ThunderRidge’s is open and airy, with a few shelves tucked along walls. The books aren’t gone, but in the new Digital Learning Center, they’re digitized.
Now, said librarian Paula Busey, “I can have 1,000 kids hitting the same book at the same time.”
That leaves room for students to gather and collaborate on projects. Bright green and soft blue chairs with wheels encourage that team effort, allowing students to form circles for group projects and move around the room easily.
“The whole idea was to make it a more collaborative place,” Busey said. “Collaborative work is the way the world is solving problems. It’s where so much creating comes from.”
“This has changed into a flexible space,” Principal Carole Jennings said. “It replicates a lot of business environments.”
The school held a grand opening of its new digital library Sept. 24. Digital libraries are not a new concept at the university level and collaborative spaces increasingly are common in corporate workplaces, but they’re uncommon at the high school level. ThunderRidge’s is the first in the school district, and its supporters hope it will serve as a model for others to follow.
Chromebooks, iPads and laptop computers are available for student use or checkout.
“Libraries forever were for research and study,” Jennings said. “Most people have one-to-one devices now, so we need to push students in a different direction. This is where they need to activate their minds. Our intention is to be the hub of every content area in our building.”
Students are encouraged to interact not just with one another and their teachers, but industry experts in their area of study. Using Skype is highly encouraged.
“Now we take that next step and bring the real world into our school,” Jennings said.
“The students get it,” said Katie Lindauer, a parent with the nonprofit ThunderRidge Education Partnership. “At any time, a group could form around a screen and Skype. With all these screens, you could pretty much form a classroom at any point.”
Despite the emphasis on collaboration, plenty of space and options remain for individual study.
“I think this is a good improvement,” said junior Michael North, a regular visitor to the library. “It turned from just computers to a lounge where people can go work on a project or just any sort of homework.”
The library is planned as a phased remodeling with conference rooms scheduled for the future. The partnership has raised about $30,000 from parents and sponsors for the first phase, and continues to accept contributions toward future improvements.