New library features engage students


Jace Juliano and Brandon Stafford

On the first day of school, Madison students noticed changes in the library. For many it had previously served as a place to check-out books, quietly read, hold club meetings or complete work during a class. But now, due to several additions, the library holds many more purposes.

The librarians are working to create a more student-centered library. They added a chess table,  puzzle table, zen coloring table, and Maker Space where students can create crafts using the supplies laid out, including a 3D printer.

“All I can say is [these new additions have] added a new vibrance to the library, and we are getting levels of participation that are really satisfying,” Co-Head Librarian John Landis said. “We have added new things to hook people or to get their interest, and they [students] have stepped-up and it is wonderful to see. This place is popping as a result.”

According to statistics provided by the Fairfax County’s database for all school libraries, 550 students checked out 612 books from the Madison library in Sept. 2015. However, 1,363 students checked out 1,468 books in Sept. 2016. This shows a 148% increase in students and a 140% increase in distributed books.

“We were looking at creating something for the library that students wanted to go down to. Our mission as a school is to develop creative and resilient global citizens,” Principal Greg Hood said. “So looking at this concept of the Makerspace area was all around the idea [that came from the question] of how do we engage students in wanting to do something creative while also fun while they are in the library.”

The librarians have also established a “Weekly Maker Challenge,” during which students complete in the Makerspace using specific items that are provided. For example, throughout the week of Oct. 9 through Oct. 15, the challenge was to create a spaghetti tower using spaghetti noodles and marshmallows. Whoever could build the highest tower by the end of the week won a five dollar Starbucks gift card given out at the front desk. Future challenges and prizes will change every week.

Maker Challenge winner William Kegley (’17) participated because he found the objective enjoyable and likes use materials to put something together, similar to his job as Set Crew Chief for the drama department.

“I am not huge into academics. [Building objects] is kinda my thing,” Kegley said. “I am better at it than other people, so why not [compete in the challenge]?”

Co-Head Librarian Alice Pleasants encourages students to check the whiteboard that rotates in and out of the library. It provides the daily trivia question and weekly Maker Challenge. Students can win a piece of candy by answering the trivia question correctly.

Senior Liv Wisnewski writes trivia questions on the whiteboard and is a teaching assistant in the library.

I think that the new additions to the library are fantastic. It is so great to see people getting involved in the Makerspace and the morning trivia,” Wisnewski said. “I personally adore the library and I am happy many more people are getting involved. The library is moving in a great direction and if you have not [seen the new changes] yet, you really should check [them] out.”

The librarians are taking advantage of current events to create themes and activities to do in the library.

“We [celebrated] Banned Books Week [Sept. 25 through Oct. 1] this year and Teen Read Week [Oct. 9 through Oct. 15], so we [had] as a book mobile in the cafeteria during lunch,” Pleasants said.

Additionally, the library’s increasing distribution of more books to students has been progressed by the English teachers.

“In regards to our circulation, I think part of that is because Madison High School is embracing a reading culture,” Pleasants said. “A lot of the English teachers are giving kids ten minutes at the beginning of every class or during class to read for choice, which I think [is] a shift from years past. So we are thrilled that kids are getting excited about reading.”

English teacher Jamie Allen allows students ten minutes of free reading time in the beginning of every class. This is the first year he has done this formally.

“The number one experience that helps students improve as readers and writers is exposure to language, so when we give students the chance to read a book of their choice in class, even for just a few minutes, they soak up a lot of style and mechanics subconsciously,” Allen said. “Plus, it is a very pleasant way to start class everyday—calm and enjoyable for everyone, since even reluctant readers tend to enjoy reading much more when they are reading books they chose.”

Other teachers, such as Kathleen Newman, have been giving students reading time for a while.

“This year is my fourth year dedicating choice reading time in my class every class period,” Newman said. “This is a time when I read, too, modeling the behavior of a good reader. The students actually read if you read with them. My goal is to help my students find that by placing an emphasis on the importance of reading, and ideally, I hope that they will become lifelong readers as a result of the focus on choice reading in class.”

Newman has noticed several positive impacts on her students. She can recommend books to students early in the year, her “non-readers” begin reading on their own time, and students set reading goals for themselves, preparing for the heavy amounts they will be assigned in college.

As Madison students must balance difficult class schedules and participate in multiple extracurriculars, the introduction of new library components gives them a safe and stress-free environment.

“These activities are here to help students relax and unwind from their hectic schedules,” Secretary Nancye Williamson said.

The librarians also encourage everyone to follow their new Twitter account under the username @mad_library to keep updated on library information.

“[Come] in and see the changes in the library. It is the student’s library and we are trying to make it student-centered,” Pleasants said.