School library transforms into high-tech haven

Holy Trinity Episcopal Academy has joined the trend of schools both locally and nationally converting their stodgy school libraries into state-of-the-art spaces that cater to tech-savvy students and encourage entrepreneurship, idea sharing and communication.

The school recently transformed its upper school library into a new IDEAS Center – short for Innovation, Design, Entrepreneurship and Applied Solutions. The space features a glass-enclosed classroom, video screens for presentations, teleprompters, comfortable furniture, electrical outlets for charging personal devices, student-created artwork, and access to online databases for research. It will also soon include a 3-D printer.

“The way you access information is so different,” Alison Bell, Holy Trinity’s director of college counseling, said during a recent tour of the upper school’s IDEAS Center. “It used to be the library was where you went to get information from books.”

Now, Bell said, it’s where students and staff hold classes and meetings, as well as give presentations, conduct research, work on projects and, sometimes, study.

Holy Trinity’s lower school, which serves students in pre-kindergarten through sixth grade, got their own version of the IDEAS Center in the school’s computer lab. There, students will take classes in the nationally-renowned Project Lead the Way curriculum, which focuses on computer science, design and modeling, innovation and other engineering and technical classes. The space will also feature a 3-D printer, laser cutter and other tools for student use.

The HT centers were funded by a private donation, as well as donations from previous graduating classes and the school’s chapter of the National English Honor Society.

As the upper school library transformed, most of the books were sold and the proceeds donated to schools in need. Librarians Arlene Sutherland and Pace Hill personally sorted through every volume.

“If it hasn’t been checked out since 2012, we’ve been donating them,” Sutherland said.

Some of the more popular fiction books were kept, as were a few nonfiction books for seventh- and eighth-graders. “Kids are still reading books,” Sutherland said, noting that students also have access to ebooks.

The school also added several subscriptions to online data bases where students can do research.

Other library equipment and furniture was also donated or reused in other parts of the school.

HT staff and students toured other local schools and college campuses to create a list of must-haves for the new spaces. The upper school IDEAS Center is reminiscent of a similar space at Florida Institute of Technology.

Senior Lara Boos was one of two students who helped design the new space. “There’s so many ways we can move the furniture around and have different set-ups,” Boos, who lives in Indialantic, said. “I feel like more kids use the library now.”

An entrepreneurship class was resurrected after not being offered the past few years. Boos said she and other students in that class are working on a project to redesign the school cafeteria and lunch system.

Students use the glass classroom walls to brainstorm and jot down ideas, in place of typing on their computers or writing on paper. They photograph the notes with their phones to save for later use or share with others.

The school’s director of advancement, Colleen Middlebrooks, said the IDEAS Center will be used as a model for other classroom renovations.

“We envision anything we build in the future being more in line with this space,” Middlebrooks said.

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