Natural light, studying students fill new SHS library
SNOHOMISH - With the remodel of Snohomish High School at about 98 percent complete, the new library is a shining example of what is soon to come for the rest of the campus.
The library, located on the second floor of the new B Building, opened in October. During construction of the new space, the school’s gym accommodated the library’s functions, with its collection of approximately 15,000 books and other items stored on a combination of bleachers and bookshelves.
The original library sorely needed an update and a smarter floor plan, school librarian Volkert Volkersz said.
The new library has high ceilings and an open, airy feeling, while large windows let in lots of natural light. Volkersz and assistant librarian Barb Wilson said they appreciate the open layout and the furnishings in the completely rebuilt space, and they said after having the doors open for a few months, it is clear the student body enjoys using the library, too.
The bookshelves are about four feet high, so it’s easy to see all the way from one end of the room to the other, and the rectangular room allows the two librarians to see almost the entire library from the vantage point of Volkersz’s office and main desk.
On the north end, a popular window seat overlooks the campus in transition, including the new Keith Gilbertson Sr. Gym.
“We just love to be able to see the campus,” Volkersz said.
A smaller window seat looks west as well.
The north end of the library has dozens of computer stations, and several rows of them are set up like a classroom, facing a flat screen TV and Smartboard projector for technologically enhanced instruction.
At the other end of the library is another instruction area, this one with oversized tables that encourage working in groups, and padded chairs that discourage rocking back too far.
There are 80 computers in the library, each with Internet access. A separate computer lab in the library is great for teachers who want some quiet, Volkersz said.
Textbooks are stored in a special room with a system of sliding shelves operated by a rotating hand crank.
The tall bookcases sit on runners, and the librarians can roll them left and right using the rotating wheel, depending on which subject and corresponding bookcase they need to access. There is room enough in the storage system for the five or six bookcases stacked side-by-side and one walkway. The librarian controls which cases will stack together, and therefore where to leave the walking space open to access the desired shelves.
The device more than triples the storage capacity of the space, Volkersz said. Students can check out books at the main desk, or, for textbooks and literature only, classes will line up in the hallway outside the library to do check outs via a sliding glass window that opens into the textbook room.
To aid in planning the library, the district toured several schools for ideas, Volkersz said. One idea the decorator had to talk him into was the use of “pub-style” tables, which are tall, two or three-person tables. He didn’t think students would like the higher seating for studying, but now, “this is where they come first,” he said.
The design pays homage to the school’s long history — it was founded in 1894 — with the use of Mission-style chairs arranged throughout the library.
Snohomish High School is one of the oldest high schools in the state.
The kids enjoy the older style chairs for a couple of reasons, Volkersz said. The district ordered extra wide armrests so students could rest their iPads and other electronic devices on them. But also, “they like being connected to the history of the town and the school,” Volkersz said.
The remodel didn’t enlarge the library’s footprint, but a smarter use of space means the amount of usable floor space is pretty much the same as the original library, Volkersz said. Research work has largely moved online anyway, he said.
“There’s a shift going on right now; it hasn’t completely shifted, but we’re seeing more and more of the electronic resources,” said the librarian, who is in charge of making sure those resources are available and relevant to today’s high school student.
Volkersz and Wilson said the popularity of the new library proves it was designed well.
The library has views of both the Olympic and Cascade mountain ranges.
Volkersz also is happy to show off a view of a Maple tree that has served as a landmark at the school’s Fifth Street entrance for “at least the past 50 years,” he said, and is a popular backdrop for yearbook portraits.
For decades, students have told their parents, “Meet me at the big tree” when they need to get picked up from school.
“It’s just a real landmark; it holds a special place for people in the community,” he said.
When the district met with community groups to plan the school’s remodel, “They all said, ‘the big tree stays,’ so the whole project revolves around protecting that tree,” Volkersz said. “We (at the library) have a view of the tree now.”
Wilson said her favorite things about the new library are the furnishings, the design, “and that the kids love to come in here now.”
“I sometimes have kids waiting at the door in the morning. They can’t wait to get in here,” Volkersz said.
Last week, sophomore Aleya Erickson and freshmen Valerie Nienela and Rebekkah Simonson were chatting in a cozy library nook, their large chairs arranged around a glowing table lamp. The girls said they visit the library about twice a week; “usually to relax,” Erickson said.
The design and the chairs are their favorite aspects of the school’s new library, they said, particularly the window seat overlooking the campus.
By STEPHANIE KOSONEN
Published March 28, 2012