From Makeshift to Wow: Our New Media Centers

Article excerpt

STUDENTS in our district are benefiting from new or renovated media centers in four of our nine schools, a significant part of our district's renewed emphasis on facilities improvements. The district opened two entirely new secondary media center constructions in 2000 and 2006; this summer a new elementary media center opened in completely renovated spaces and another relocated to improved spaces in former classrooms. In this column, we'll look at features that enhance the functionality and educational environment of these long overdue new facilities.

A LITTLE BACKGROUND

Before 2000 the middle school was housed in two 1920s-era buildings, separated by a street. The media center occupied a former auditorium; the computer lab was on the stage. The high school media center had long ago ceased to serve today's needs, just barely functioning in a two-level 1970s-era facility. The elementary media centers were make-shift, operating in halls, adjacent classrooms, and a former windowless movie projection room.

Creating a welcoming educational environment that will draw today's learners was No. 1 on our planning lists. Bistro seating and ample soft seating facing a 50' glass wall that provides a generous view of a lake and hills are the "Wow!" factor at our new high school media center. Hardwood flooring and curves add to the appeal of this area. It's "the" spot for students who want to relax with a magazine, read a novel from the adjacent teen-lit section, or use a laptop. As an added eye-catcher, teen-lit books are shelved face out. The initial building remodeling plans gave district administration the view, but concerned citizens spoke up and 1,300 students are now enjoying the view and ambiance. Contemporary metal chairs, a mottled green carpet, and laminate-top tables throughout add a modern feel appealing to teens.

High ceilings, chandelier-style lights, and purple countertops contribute to the "Wow!" factor in the middle school media center that opened in 2000. The media center is truly in the center of the school, with ample lower and upper internal windows bringing in light. Large display cases with glass on interior and exterior sides help provide a connection to the commons. Windows in two labs also add light and enable people passing by to see in, an idea hatched by a former superintendent who wanted school visitors to see "kids using technology." Additional windows bring light into interior spaces while also providing visibility into the main part of the media center. The spaces do not feel claustrophobic even though there are no outside walls. Brick support pillars with limestone tiles depicting our town of Winona add design interest.

An angled entry with glass walls invites 300 students at Washington-Kosciusko Elementary into a spacious L-shaped media center opening this month in spaces occupying former classrooms and hallways. (See Figure 1 on page 36.) Architects are often cautious about the additional costs of angles, but this angled entry cost little and adds considerable punch. It creates a true foyer with space for displays, a professional collection and comfy seating from wasted hall space. The L's long side includes a lab, conference room, and area for the upper grade fiction and nonfiction collections. The L's short side holds the checkout desk, two storage areas, and a primary resources room with a reading corner. The new spaces can accommodate three classes and have a much more open feel than we imagined when we learned the load-bearing walls could not be removed entirely. The remaining supports help provide the distinct spaces that teachers desired and nooks for display.

Another remodeling surprise at the elementary school was the ability to fill in a stairway well; that space is now used for the conference/collaborative group room. Huge windows on three outside walls provide abundant natural light. Strategically placed internal windows enhance visibility into all areas from the foyer and circulation desk. …

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