On Tuesday, a small group of Park City High School faculty and students, myself included, attended a casual presentation hosted by Park City High School Principal Bob O’Connor about the impending renovations to our school’s library, which will result in a shared space with the PCCAPS program. The intent of the presentation was to clarify the plans for the library amidst the rumors flying around the school and community. More excitingly, the floor plans for the space were revealed.
To kick things off, the group created a list of student and faculty concerns that needed to be addressed. Amongst the most prominent were the use of e-books, having a sanctuary for students, and what exactly will happen to the books.
According to information provided at the meeting, the school is narrowing down their supply of physical books to those that are still relevant for students. Two or three years ago, twice as many books were being checked out than they are today at Park City High School. Those books that haven’t been checked out for over eight years were available for students to “adopt” today, sitting in portable shelves in front of the library. The majority of the books that haven’t been used in three years or more will be put into storage. The reason provided was that use of physical books has decreased. A corresponding increase in e-book use by Park City High School students, however, has yet to be statistically proven. This makes me wonder: will students move from reading physical books to reading e-books, or will they just read less altogether?
The presentation hurried to make one thing clear: the library will be open to all students, all the time. This includes the time that PCCAPS is in the space. The PCCAPS students will be centered in conference rooms and a closed-off robotics area, while the rest of the library will be open to everyone else. So, at least a portion of the library will always be open, while some areas such as the conference rooms will be in use during parts of the day but available to all students during others.
My attention was piqued when the floor plan for the new area was revealed. The design has numerous conference rooms along the perimeter of the room, which will be used mostly for PCCAPS but is available to all students and clubs when not in use otherwise. These conference rooms will be separated by the library space in the center of the room by 10 feet high glass walls. These walls will be soundproofed, while the conference rooms will remain open-ceilinged. All remaining books will be kept in shelves lining the divider walls. A few small projection screens will be on the walls, and a larger one can be pulled down from the ceiling.
This new space is being described as an “internet cafe.” The library will have more comfortable seating, airport tables, and the aforementioned screens. (None of us students actually know what airport tables are; we’re thinking potentially tables with USB ports.) Mr. O’Connor mentioned a possible espresso bar, located either in the library or nearby cafeteria. The espresso bar sounds really cool to me. Who doesn’t like the idea of hanging out on a couch, sipping on coffee, and surfing the internet? I do wish, however, that these ideas were made public earlier and presented as a legitimate idea rather than what seems like an attempt to appease angry students.
Here’s my problem with the plans. Of the current 8,000 square feet of space, only 4,000 will be designated library – or “internet cafe” – space. According to information given at the meeting, approximately 130 spots are filled for the PCCAPS program next year, over two semesters. This is a distinct minority of the school’s population. However, we need to recognize that PCCAPS has nowhere else to go at this time. The lease in the old building is up, and the library is the next best location for the program. It’s just rather unfortunate that the move will severely decrease floor space for the library area itself.
The change in the library’s size and identity do affect me, and many other students, in another way: study hall. Currently, study hall is held in the library, but according to Mr. O’Connor, that will no longer be an option next year. I am taking study hall next year, and the idea of working in the comfortable seating and natural lighting of the library really appealed to me. Next year, study hall will either be held in an unused lab or a classroom that is not being used for the period. It’s disappointing that the library will be changed to the point that study hall is no longer possible there.
It’s noteworthy to add that, in my opinion, Ms. Anita Booher, our school’s librarian, seemed upset about the changes presented during the meeting. Perhaps she wasn’t as involved in the decision-making process as the school board had led us to believe. At one point, when Mr. O’Connor used “we” while explaining the decisions, she spoke up to clarify that she had not been a part of it. Towards the end of the presentation, she stood up and promised that she would do her absolute best to work with what she had going forward to preserve the integrity of the library.
This exclusion can also be applied to the student body and general public. Rumors have been flying, and everyone has seemed to have a different idea of what the plan for the library was. I am disappointed that the board didn’t come forward earlier to offer information and ask for input. Had they done this, the misinformed uproar wouldn’t have happened, and there would be many more happy students. I believe we deserve to have been involved since the beginning. To further my point, today’s meeting was attended by approximately ten students. Why? Only a select few students, such as the Breakfast Club and others who have spoken up, were invited to the presentation. No public announcement was made to the student body at any point. This really rubs me the wrong way. Isn’t now the time to get students involved, to make up for past mistakes in the planning process? I thought this meeting would be used to involve the students in the process that they were excluded from before. In that regard, the meeting was a missed opportunity.