The New School Library: Caffeine With That Download?

By Roger J. Goudy/School Administrator, May 2015

When I visited the schools that comprise the Madison Local School District in the northeastern corner of Ohio shortly after being named superintendent in 2006, I noticed something peculiar. At the elementary and middle schools, the libraries were lively and heavily trafficked by the students and staff.
 
    Then I checked out the library at our 1,000-student high school. It was uninviting and, not surprisingly, deserted for the most part. That library contained dozens of shelves of books and a few desktop computers. But it was at that moment, in the middle of a facility that probably once was full of life, that I realized students don’t access information through books as they did in the past. The Internet had become their ubiquitous research tool, whenever and wherever they happened to be. They were using digital tablets, laptops and cell phones to access information. And these were the things missing from our high school library.
 
    So, in 2011, our district gave birth to the Cyber Café Committee. The committee included student council members, school board members, high school and district administrators and the district’s maintenance and information technology staff. Subcommittees researched everything that needed to happen to transform this little-used library into a functioning, bustling, user-friendly cyber café. They drew up floor plans and considered technology needs, furniture, staffing and more.
 
    Next up was the most difficult part of the project: funding. A local resident entered the FirstEnergy Solutions’ Thanks a Million Giveaway contest and won. He was awarded $25,000, and Madison Local Schools received $50,000. With funding resolved, the student council took charge. There were walls to paint, furniture to purchase, exercise equipment to buy, shelves to move — everything needed to transform a library into a cyber café. Student council leaders consulted with the student body and gathered ideas about what they wanted their cyber café to look like and the kinds of technology they wanted to be able to access.
 
Teacher Usage
In September 2013, we held the grand opening of the new Brew Streak Cyber Café. The former library where you could only check out books and print materials now has become a place to check out iPads, too. The name encompasses Madison’s mascot, a character known as the Blue Streak, and the coffee shop that is incorporated into the cyber café.
 
    Today, Madison High School students can access Wi-Fi with their laptops, digital tablets and cell phones. You will find students walking on treadmills while using their wireless devices at the same time. The room is an inviting place with couches, individual and group work tables and whiteboards — an environment that offers comfortable and functional collaboration spaces for our students.
 
    After school, the café often attracts teachers, who make use of the treadmills, whiteboards and Wi-Fi. The space provides great collaboration opportunities for staff as well. Clearly, students and teachers of this generation don’t glean most of their research information from books, encyclopedias or other printed volumes. They’re connected constantly to the Internet.
 
    This was a major recognition to move Madison High School forward. We see it as a huge step toward preparing students for the reality of the college experience. The transformation of a 1970s-era school library into a 21st-century cyber café was a valuable, real-world experience for all of us who were involved.

  
Roger Goudy is superintendent of the Madison Local School District in Madison, Ohio. E-mail: Roger.Goudy@madisonschools.net