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Burke Family Library to Undergo Renovation

<img class="size-full wp-image-11263 alignleft lazyload" src="" alt="counts-001" width="200" height="250" />By Annette Counts

Head Librarian

I have a friend who regularly asks, “Why do we need libraries anyway?” I know he says that to tease me, but in these days of Google, his question certainly has crossed everyone’s mind. However, you just need to peek into O’Dowd’s Burke Family Library any time of day to see that our library is stronger, more relevant and more important than ever.

There are many reasons the Burke Family Library is thriving when other libraries are suffering from dwindling use. First and foremost, O’Dowd recognizes how vital information literacy is for our students. Our teachers design inquiry-based lessons that encourage students to evaluate information as they research thorny issues. These research projects not only engage students but also provide real world skills such as determining the credibility of sources, understanding the roots of expertise and authority and making effective use of different information types.

Just as important, our administration funds student access to the best instructional and research materials available, including a strong print collection, over 120,000 e-books, and the same research databases they will encounter in college. The administration keeps library staffing at levels that allow us to serve all students. We are blessed to have a full time teacher-librarian, a library assistant and teachers who keep the library open Monday through Thursday, from 7 a.m. – 6 p.m., and on Fridays until 4 p.m.

While our library has always been at the forefront of providing quality materials, instruction, and projects, we’ve lagged in providing students the space they need to do their work. This summer, however, the Burke Family Library begins a path to renovation that will better align the much-used physical space with the intellectual pursuits of our students.

To bring our physical space up to date, we’ve been working with Noll & Tam architect Trina Goodwin (parent of Stephanie ’10 and Matt ’13) who specializes in library design. Trina knows how modern libraries work, and we in the Burke Family Library know how our community works. Together, we’ve come up with a plan that turns our crowded, fixed space into a flexible area that will serve more students and provide the environment they need to grow their brains and meet their academic challenges.

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Because many assignments require students to collaborate, we are transforming the “reference section” (all of our quality reference works are available in e-book format) into a small group conference room. The room will be equipped with white boards and moveable furniture allowing students to set up the room to be most conducive to their task: study group sessions, project creation, presentation practice or club meetings.

As we continue to replace printed materials with readily available digital versions, we create space that allows the expansion of the fiction reading area with additional upholstered seating and side tables to create a more homey and comfortable environment for students to read and study.

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Our students love to sit on the stools and use the high computer tables for work. We’ve noticed the stool and bar-style seating area is usually the first to fill up when the library opens each morning. Our new plan increases the number of stools and bar-style seating for students. Not only is the set up a favorite of our students, but it also takes less space than the traditional table and chairs adding more spots for studying.

The library will also get a fresh coat of paint, some snazzy new carpet tiles and other aesthetic touches to carry us over until we are in ready to do more substantial renovations.

Keep in mind that these important changes are just phase one of the Burke Family Library renovation plan. Our architect has drawn plans to bring the library space up-to-date in a series of projects that take advantage of other capital repairs. For example, when the time comes to replace the library roof, the library ceiling, lighting, windows and ventilation system will be updated.

We are thrilled with the direction the library space is taking. We remain committed to creating a welcoming environment that supports the important goals of life-long learning, reading, and information literacy. While the library may be in the same location as when the school opened in 1951, we are creating and re-creating a new and different space and we look forward to working with the students and teachers in our updated, flexible and fabulous Burke Family Library.

We’re grateful to the parents and friends who have made gifts in support of this renovation work.

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