The bell ending seventh hour has only just rung, and junior Lilly Wulfmeyer is already headed towards the library. She passes her friend, junior Caroline Olsen on her way, and they claim their regular table in the far left corner, right next to librarian Kathi Knop’s desk.
Almost every day after school, this group of seven juniors, forming the Student Library Advisory Board (SLAB), meets to generate new ideas on how to improve the library and make it functional and enjoyable to students.
This board and Knop are integrating author talks, parties and after-school activities to get students back into their school library, after experiencing a decrease in the students who spend time in the library.
“My freshman year SLAB started out just wanting to improve the library and make it a place where all the students would wanna go, not just go to study but to hang out,” Wulfmeyer said. “I go to the library every single day with friends and we want it to become a place where students want to go before school and want to go after school. There’s obviously the literature aspect, but also that social aspect too.”
On any given day if you enter the library from 11 a.m. to noon, you might think you accidently stumbled into the cafeteria. Tables are clustered in the center of the library, and students are eating in groups. It’s loud and buzzing and busy — not your typical library setting.
In the corner there isn’t a librarian wagging her finger and whispering to students to “Shhh.” There’s Knop — sometimes stationed at her desk, sometimes walking around to greet students — who has been a librarian for 15 years. Over the years her philosophy towards student involvement in the library is not the typical approach.
“I want kids to feel comfortable coming in here, so it can be a safe place where they can feel welcomed,” Knop said. “I want them to think that this is a place where they can come and come find books to read and come together in groups or visit with friends in an alternative setting.”
But this year, things are a little different. Mornings used to be the busiest time for the library, with students printing papers and collaborating on the rows of computers and laptops, now the area is sometimes desolate until lunch time.
The new laptop initiative has caused students to not need to come to the library as often for school-related things like group projects using computers, or using the printer which is no longer there.
After seeing this trend in August and September, Knop knew that she would need a new kind of approach to get students interested in more than just the laptops, but the books and space the library offers as well.
In October, she scheduled a book talk for the entire school by author Jay Asher, and for November she has local author Barbara Stuber, coming to talk about her new novel to mothers and daughters.
Knop and the Advisory Board planned and hosted a holiday themed “murder-mystery” party for Halloween, and are hoping to bring back the “Hunger Games” movie premiere party in November, as well as other holiday-themed parties for winter.
“These are just opportunities that I see that I grab onto,” Knop said. “I just always am thinking of what can I do differently. I don’t ever want it to be the same. We want to get more kids involved coming into the library after school, maybe for a holiday event, or maybe just to get together for no reason, just come in and get together.”
With the recent changes in emphasis in the library, Knop is looking towards the future. The district is currently working on a bond for a larger budget for school libraries to update them, to be voted on next year. The bond would enable the East library to purchase things like modern furniture, new books and more technology.
“In the future, It is going to be a lot different,” Knop said. “Hopefully if the bond issue passes there will be more mobile classrooms. The tables and chairs might have wheels on them so that you can configure tables and hopefully the book shelves will be on wheels to move around for a great big group event. It looks like there will be more emphasis on school libraries too possibly.”