LI schools creating next-generation libraries to ready students for future

The students at Silas Wood Sixth Grade Center in the South Huntington school district are learning to write computer code, use 3D printers, experience virtual reality and have access to a green screen in what was once a library room that housed mostly books.

Like other public school libraries across Long Island, the space has transformed into a place where students work together and technical advances have led to new ways to learn. In many districts, school libraries have an open-air concept and offer students opportunities to podcast, code or video conference. The furniture is movable, there are private study rooms and while there are still books in the room, the tall stacks of bookcases have been removed.

Districts from both Nassau and Suffolk — including those in Amityville, Bethpage, Baldwin, Herricks, South Huntington and Valley Stream 13, have upgraded their libraries in recent years. Some have used funding from bonds and others budgeted from the general fund. And there are future plans are in the works. For example, the Wantagh school district has scheduled a bond vote next month that includes funding for a complete renovation of the library media center at the high school.

“They [libraries] are such the hub of the entire school,” said Eastern Suffolk BOCES School Library System director Carl Vitevitch. They’ve always been collaborative spaces that students use for research and now they are even more essential as higher-level research is being done for Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate classes, he said.In addition, a library’s online database and other sources can provide resources in multiple languages ​​— including Spanish for the Island’s growing Spanish-speaking population, he said.

“It has been changing and it is still evolving,” Vitevitch said.

In South Huntington, the Silas Wood library is now a “Makerspace” — a collaborative work space where students use both high tech and no tech tools. Part of the renovation of the libraries in five of the district’s seven buildings, it opened last year and is nearly finished. There is a green screen where students can create background visual effects, 3D printers and a virtual reality system. Students follow lessons on their Chromebooks.

There are still stacks of books in the room, but they are no longer the focal point.

“We’ve learned that like traditional libraries are no longer needed. What we need is a combination of both. So library science is still getting students not only books, but also giving them the 21st century skills necessary to be successful once they get into high school and past high school,” said John Murphy, South Huntington’s assistant superintendent for curriculum & instruction.

A recent lesson combined the old media with the new. Students were given Rick Riordan’s book “The Lightning Thief” and then followed the teacher in a lesson on how to craft a digital lightning bolt on their Chromebooks that will be printed on a 3D printer.

Cristian Diaz, 12, liked the lesson and has used the virtual reality system to “ride” a roller coaster in class.

“It’s really fun,” he said.

Baldwin High School opened its new library at the high school earlier this month. Officials there call it a “Collaboratory” and it is very different from the traditional library that was there before, said Superintendent Shari Camhi.

It features five private glass-enclosed spaces where students can have meetings to work on projects together. The rooms also have video conferencing equipment so students can work with outside organizations and they can literally write on the tables and the walls like whiteboards. There’s comfortable seating. The district did most of the work in-house, Camhi said.

“When you talk to the students there is a real need for a space to collaborate,” she said. “This is just the next generation of what is formally known as a library… It is not just about books and periodicals and online resources and tech—it is about places where people work together.”

In the Herricks school district, the libraries at the middle school and high school both opened this year after being fully renovated. Gone are the tall, wooden bookcases in order to give the rooms a more open and airy feel, said Michael Imondi, director of English language arts, reading and library services.

The furniture is movable and the lighting has been changed. There are whiteboard tables for interactive learning and both libraries offer comfortable chairs and places to charge student chromebooks.

The high school offers 11 silent study spots where a former computer lab has been converted into small rooms where students can quietly do their work. The high school library also has a poster printer.

And while the libraries have more digital resources to offer, Imondi said, “We still have a good number of books. We did downsize some books, but we do believe in the importance of having access to books.”

At the elementary level, changes have been made, too. In the Valley Stream 13 district which serves pre-K to 6th graders, two libraries have been renovated to make more room for student activities. Librarian Carole Ann Weik has been integrating STEM and STEAM lessons with traditional books.

She’s led lessons in which students have built Ferris wheels from Popsicle sticks or modified paper airplanes to see how they fly.

“We have additional floor space so we can accommodate small groups and some of the STEM and STEAM activities,” she said.

The students at Silas Wood Sixth Grade Center in the South Huntington school district are learning to write computer code, use 3D printers, experience virtual reality and have access to a green screen in what was once a library room that housed mostly books.

Like other public school libraries across Long Island, the space has transformed into a place where students work together and technical advances have led to new ways to learn. In many districts, school libraries have an open-air concept and offer students opportunities to podcast, code or video conference. The furniture is movable, there are private study rooms and while there are still books in the room, the tall stacks of bookcases have been removed.

Districts from both Nassau and Suffolk — including those in Amityville, Bethpage, Baldwin, Herricks, South Huntington and Valley Stream 13, have upgraded their libraries in recent years. Some have used funding from bonds and others budgeted from the general fund. And there are future plans are in the works. For example, the Wantagh school district has scheduled a bond vote next month that includes funding for a complete renovation of the library media center at the high school.

“They [libraries] are such the hub of the entire school,” said Eastern Suffolk BOCES School Library System director Carl Vitevitch. They’ve always been collaborative spaces that students use for research and now they are even more essential as higher-level research is being done for Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate classes, he said.In addition, a library’s online database and other sources can provide resources in multiple languages ​​— including Spanish for the Island’s growing Spanish-speaking population, he said.

“It has been changing and it is still evolving,” Vitevitch said.

Sixth-graders work on an activity in their schools’ library utilizing their Chromebooks and other digital resources at Huntington Station’s Silas Wood Sixth Grade Center, Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2022. Credit: Danielle Silverman

In South Huntington, the Silas Wood library is now a “Makerspace” — a collaborative work space where students use both high tech and no tech tools. Part of the renovation of the libraries in five of the district’s seven buildings, it opened last year and is nearly finished. There is a green screen where students can create background visual effects, 3D printers and a virtual reality system. Students follow lessons on their Chromebooks.

There are still stacks of books in the room, but they are no longer the focal point.

“We’ve learned that like traditional libraries are no longer needed. What we need is a combination of both. So library science is still getting students not only books, but also giving them the 21st century skills necessary to be successful once they get into high school and past high school,” said John Murphy, South Huntington’s assistant superintendent for curriculum & instruction.

A recent lesson combined the old media with the new. Students were given Rick Riordan’s book “The Lightning Thief” and then followed the teacher in a lesson on how to craft a digital lightning bolt on their Chromebooks that will be printed on a 3D printer.

Cristian Diaz, 12, liked the lesson and has used the virtual reality system to “ride” a roller coaster in class.

“It’s really fun,” he said.

This is the recently opened new state-of-the-art library at...

This is the recently opened new state-of-the-art library at Baldwin High School in Baldwin Tuesday Nov. 22, 2022.
Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Baldwin High School opened its new library at the high school earlier this month. Officials there call it a “Collaboratory” and it is very different from the traditional library that was there before, said Superintendent Shari Camhi.

It features five private glass-enclosed spaces where students can have meetings to work on projects together. The rooms also have video conferencing equipment so students can work with outside organizations and they can literally write on the tables and the walls like whiteboards. There’s comfortable seating. The district did most of the work in-house, Camhi said.

“When you talk to the students there is a real need for a space to collaborate,” she said. “This is just the next generation of what is formally known as a library… It is not just about books and periodicals and online resources and tech—it is about places where people work together.”

In the Herricks school district, the libraries at the middle school and high school both opened this year after being fully renovated. Gone are the tall, wooden bookcases in order to give the rooms a more open and airy feel, said Michael Imondi, director of English language arts, reading and library services.

The furniture is movable and the lighting has been changed. There are whiteboard tables for interactive learning and both libraries offer comfortable chairs and places to charge student chromebooks.

The high school offers 11 silent study spots where a former computer lab has been converted into small rooms where students can quietly do their work. The high school library also has a poster printer.

And while the libraries have more digital resources to offer, Imondi said, “We still have a good number of books. We did downsize some books, but we do believe in the importance of having access to books.”

At the elementary level, changes have been made, too. In the Valley Stream 13 district which serves pre-K to 6th graders, two libraries have been renovated to make more room for student activities. Librarian Carole Ann Weik has been integrating STEM and STEAM lessons with traditional books.

She’s led lessons in which students have built Ferris wheels from Popsicle sticks or modified paper airplanes to see how they fly.

“We have additional floor space so we can accommodate small groups and some of the STEM and STEAM activities,” she said.

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