Students are flocking to the Burke Family Library, which now offers increased space for both individual and group study.
The library can now accommodate 180 students at any given time (previous capacity was 140) and is heavily used during the student flex periods introduced this academic year, as well as before and after school and at lunchtime.
In the past, students heading into the library often found all the seats occupied. “They would come in and just turn around and leave,” Head Librarian Annette Counts said. “That isn’t happening now.”
Designed by architect Trina Goodwin, mother of Stephanie ’10 and Matt ’13 Goodwin, and renovated over the summer, the space now features a variety of seating options – high top café-style tables (equipped with power outlets so students can charge their devices) with low back stools, lounge-type seating, and round and rectangular tables with standard chairs. A second glass-enclosed study room was added to provide more space for collaboration.
Counts made way for the additional seating by weeding the library collection – getting rid of outdated materials, duplicate copies, and books that were in disrepair. When possible, the books were given away to students, faculty and staff or donated.
An associate principal at Noll & Tam architects and planners, Goodwin specializes in library design. She oversaw space planning and interiors for Los Gatos Library and Castro Valley Library, among others.
Goodwin generously donated the bulk of her time to the O’Dowd project, while current parent Kathryn Danish, mother of Cole Danish ’18, facilitated the purchase of the lounge chairs – which have an armless design and unique back-to back configuration – in the fiction section of the library.
Even though the world is becoming more digital, and people can access resources with the touch of a finger to their smart phones, people still need places like libraries to work, Goodwin said. “And there is something about working alongside other people who are working that inspires us all,” she said. “It’s just like going to a gym – you might get a little bit more inspired to work hard if other people are doing it.”
Goodwin visited the Burke Family Library recently to see how students were responding to the new space, and was pleased with what she observed – a library filled to capacity at 4 p.m., long after students were dismissed for the day. “It’s wonderful to come back and see all the kids in the space, and it’s nice to feel like I got to have an impact,” she said.
“O’Dowd has a wonderful theater and puts money into the sports program, but people send their children to the school so they can have access to a great education. Having a library space like this, along with the personalized services offered in the library, are really key in helping kids achieve their potential.”
Counts says that students are very respectful of and appreciative of the new space. “It shows them that we value the work they are doing, and that we want to provide quality work space for them,” she said. “It really elevates the learning experience.”
Counts says the summer renovations were the first in a series of improvements planned for the library. Phase 2 will focus on improving comfort by replacing fixed windows with windows that open, along with ceiling fans, for improved ventilation. Wood paneling on the ceiling and walls will further elevate the look of the Burke Family Library. And doors that provide more visibility to the outside will be added.
“There is serious learning going on here all the time, and we want to continue to encourage that by providing a beautiful place for students,” Counts said.