(TNS) — Walking into the main library at Longmont's Trail Ridge Middle School, you won't see row after row of book stacks or hear exhortations to keep quiet.
Instead, the main space is filled with round tables with whiteboard tops arranged around a big projection screen, giving classes room to hear presentations and collaborate on design ideas.
There's also a maker space with a prototype closet stuffed with cardboard, yarn, cork and a wide variety of other materials. Plus a separate "think tank" room for small group work. Another area is still being arranged but includes charging stations for Chromebook and Mac computer carts shared by classes.
There are still some shelves of books, but they're no longer the main event. Most of the school's book collection now resides in an auxiliary library.
Those who want to grab a book or read on a device can settle in on a couch or comfy chairs. Or there are tall tables arranged against a block of windows so students can look out as they read or work.
"Kids can prototype and create projects in our library," said Trail Ridge Principal Eddie Cloke. "It's a really cool space."
Both the St. Vrain Valley and Boulder Valley school districts are beginning to make changes to bring their libraries into the 21st century.
In St. Vrain Valley, there's a library pilot focused on redesigns. In Boulder Valley, the $576.5 million bond issue approved by voters in 2014 gives schools money to make physical changes to library spaces.
The four Boulder Valley schools with major remodels or rebuilds, plus the new K-8 school being built in Erie, are designing new library spaces with innovation as the goal. All the district's schools also will share a $20 million innovation fund that could be used to update libraries.
Kelly Sain, Boulder Valley's director of educational technology, said schools are looking at incorporating maker spaces, presentation areas and video creation rooms into their libraries. Another idea is for students to write reviews that would be available online to help classmates pick books.
"Our libraries will need to change based on learning needs," she said. "We can use the library as a real learning hub or curiosity center."
Curiosity centers and digital commons
In both districts, libraries are being rebranded to better reflect their broader purposes — curiosity center or inquiry center, digital commons or learning commons.
In St. Vrain Valley, Trail Ridge was one of the first to turn its library into a "digital commons." The school, which has a STEM focus, started making changes last school year and is continuing work on the library this year.
On a recent day, a sixth-grade science class used the library for a STEM lesson on biomimicry from a University of Colorado graduate student.
After learning about how engineers use animal and plant strategies to improve products for people, they worked in pairs to develop their own ideas and used the whiteboard tables for notes and sketches.
Isaac Garcia, using the whiteboard to make a quick sketch of a prototype car he wants to make in the maker space, said he likes that the library allows for more active learning.
"They made it part library and part a place to work," he said.
Classmate Sierra Champion added that she likes the new library layout "because we have more learning space."
Trail Ridge's media specialist Mai Vu said the library defines the school's culture.
"The issue all libraries are facing is how you move to the 21st century," she said. "We can be both a place for books and a maker space. It's fascinating to see kids making stuff and not just consuming stuff."
Kahle Charles, St. Vrain Valley's executive director of curriculum, said the district's one-to-one iPad initiative is changing how teachers teach and students learn — with kids engaged in more project-based and collaborative learning.
Libraries, he said, need to change, too.
"We're asking how libraries can help support this more engaging learning experience for kids," he said. "We really want to start to transform our libraries into the most vibrant areas in our schools."
With iPads, he said, middle and high school students already have "all the information they would ever need at their fingertips."
"We want students to be able to combine what they know and apply it to produce something," he said. "It's more about instruction and less about checking out books."
St. Vrain piloting library redesigns
Three library pilot schools — Lyons Elementary, Westview Middle and Longmont High — started meeting monthly this fall. They've talked about using blended learning in libraries, looked at library research and gathered data on how students are using libraries now.
To get more ideas, they looked at Douglas County schools. Linda Conway, Douglas County's director of , was hired three years ago to improve and modernize school libraries.
Using a learning commons model, she said, she's worked with schools on libraries with multiple, flexible learning spaces and access to digital resources 24 hours a day.
Without much extra funding, libraries added wheeled support systems to book shelves instead of buying new shelves and used Plexiglass and other inexpensive materials to create "thinking" walls students could write on.
To gain space where students could collaborate and brainstorm, outdated print books were removed and replaced with digital versions.
"We still have checkout of books, but now we check out print and digital books," Conway said. "It's all about balance and giving students choice."
In St. Vrain, each of the three pilot schools has developed an action plan and is working on implementing it. More schools will join the pilot in the spring.
At Westview, revamping the library was presented to students as a design project, and their ideas were incorporated into the plans.
The school created a help desk for iPad issues that's staffed with students in its "Geek Squad" class. The help desk includes copies of a student-created manual that offers help for solving common problems like a forgotten password or an app that won't download, plus iPad charging stations.
Then there are collaboration stations with large display screens so students can project work from their iPads and a maker space for prototypes. The library also will house the school's second 3D printer.
Along with adding collaboration and maker spaces to its libraries, St. Vrain is adding to its digital library.
The district partnered with Overdrive to provide ebooks and now has about 54,000 titles in its digital library. The district also bought digital content as part of a recent secondary language arts materials adoption.
BVSD using bond for library work
Boulder Valley is using bond money to reimagine its libraries.
The district contracted with Fielding Nair International, a Minneapolis-based architectural firm, to work with schools this fall on innovative design as they plan for construction projects.
The firm earlier this fall held two days of interviews, workshops and tours at each of the schools with the five biggest projects — the new Erie K-8; the Creekside, Douglass and Emerald elementary rebuilds; and a Centaurus High remodel.
One of the goals identified for the new Erie school is a "curiosity center" at the heart of the school that could replace the library, with access to media, resources and tools, plus space for performance and gathering.
"It's the idea of a library becoming more of a place where they can connect with people and ask big questions," said Kiffany Lychock, Boulder Valley's innovation director. "We're really looking forward to these projects coming to life."
Along with revamping libraries in schools that will be rebuilt, the district also has several schools planning to update their libraries using bond money.
Sanchez Elementary, for example, is looking to turn its library into an inquiry center to better align with its inquiry-based International Baccalaureate, or IB, program.
"In most IB schools, the library is where all of the action takes place," said Assistant Principal Kristy Krause. "Our library is so outdated, that doesn't happen here."
She said the library is still in the design phase, but potential changes include a maker space, docking stations for Chromebooks and iPads, and furniture that's more mobile and in more sizes to better fit students.
With classrooms now sharing sets of Chromebooks, the computer lab would be used instead as a book room to store the books used for literacy instruction, freeing up space. A full Chromebook set also would be housed in the library.
"We're looking at totally remaking the library space," Krause said.
At Boulder's Southern Hills Middle School, librarian Regina Hoskins is working with teachers schoolwide on integrating technology. Helping is a student technology team, with students providing basic tech help and support to teachers.
"The student tech team has been huge," she said. "They really shine when they can show others how to do something."
In the library, she's always looking for more ways to incorporate technology and frequently moves the furniture as needed to add flexibility to the space.
She's added computers through grants and other funding sources, with almost a full classroom set now located in the center of the library for research. There's also a mobile smartboard for presentations.
Her wish list for the bond money includes a multimedia space where students can "create and publish" and a large screen so students can connect with experts and authors through Skype.
"I'm amazed at how the job has changed in the five years I've been the librarian," she said. "We have to shift. It's not just about reading books anymore. It's how do we help the students access the information they need?"
©2015 the Daily Camera (Boulder, Colo.), Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.