It was spring of 2020 when Woodridge Elementary Principal Marisa Jackson envisioned creating a 21st century library space for students. Made up of movable furniture, a cozy reading nook and small …
It was spring of 2020 when Woodridge Elementary Principal Marisa Jackson envisioned creating a 21st century library space for students. Made up of movable furniture, a cozy reading nook and small collaborative work spaces, Jackson wanted students to have a multi-purpose, multimedia library space. As of the 2022-2023 academic year, her wish has become a reality and the work is almost complete.
The school’s library was originally housed in a classroom half the size of its current space. Jackson moved its location to the large kindergarten room when the teacher who’d been there for 20 years retired. It was at that point that Jackson and former librarian Ellen Basso sketched out their vision for the space.
Jackson has been principal of Woodridge Elementary for the past three years and just entered her fourth year at the school. Prior to that, she spent 18 years working in the Providence School System; she also attended Woodridge Elementary as a child.
The library work has been completed in a series of phases, and the rejuvenated space includes four rectangular tables, 12 mobile desks, two learners' couches, six mobile browsers, nine bookshelves and a nook with three seats. The room comfortably seats 30 individuals – which is larger than the average class size – and Jackson said students have already been in the space and all want to sit on the learners' couches.
Now, these aren’t your typical couches or desks. Four of the mobile desks have white board surfaces so kids can write directly on top of them and all are great for partner work since the desks can be reconfigured for group tasks. Jackson pointed out that the learner couches have outlets on either side of the furniture so students can plug in their laptops and rest them on the couches’ moveable tabletops.
Because the old library’s bookshelves made it difficult for students to reach books, Jackson invested in shorter bookshelves and knee-high browsers for the school’s littlest learners. The school also installed air conditioning and shades (to block the sunlight that could quickly heat up the room) to create a more comfortable space for kids to learn in.
Jackson said students follow a specific library curriculum and the library is for more than just checking out books. The school’s current librarian, Deanna Brooks, teaches students about credible sources, research and will assist teachers with lessons by locating appropriate reading resources for students. The library also has its own Chromebook charging cart and 30 Chromebook Flips thanks to a grant; these devices give Brooks one on one capabilities with the technology and students. Jackson added that students will have more library time since the 30 minute period students had once a week has increased to a 50 minute block per the school’s new schedule.
This space is not simply meant for library classes. Jackson sees the room as a multi-purpose multimedia space; it’s an area for facility meetings, a place where the PTO can meet and a room where the fifth grade band can practice since the library has better acoustics than the cafeteria. When library class isn’t in session, teachers can also use the room as an alternative learning space.
Since the band will also be using this space, the school purchased cubbies to hold instruments. The cubbies are located in the library’s adjoining storage area. Overall, the library project plus the band cubbies cost $21,000. Jackson held fundraisers to raise the money for purchasing new shelving for chapter books and book browsers for picture books, as recommended by the librarian, to improve student’s ability to independently find books. Since students love being able to easily see the cover of each picture book before making their choice, the visual appeal of the new shelving adds to the draw and the welcoming feel of the library.
Additionally, help from grants and Cranston Public Schools assisted in the completion of this project.
In the spring of 2022, Jackson received an award from the School Librarians of RI for the work she did in collaboration with her school librarian to make the Woodridge Library a 21st century learning space – Basso and Brooks nominated her for this award.
“Marisa Jackson has shown herself to be an unequivocal and enthusiastic supporter of libraries and library programs. Her energy and positivity radiates unceasingly to others around her. Laser focused on the big picture, it is untenable to think she is not promoting her ideas to others in her principal meetings,” wrote Basso and Brooks in their application
Jackson thanked custodian Dan D’Arezzo for being instrumental in assembling and configuring the furniture.
While the project is almost complete, the library’s next phase will include removing old shelving that lines the back wall and purchasing more mobile browsers and couches. She’d also like to create a makerspace for independent STEM learning and library centers and have the school’s art teacher and students create a mural for the space.
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