Article and photos by Gretchen Angerman, James Madison University digital marketing student.
Eastern Mennonite Elementary School students are enjoying their own dedicated library space after making do with wagon loads of books transported to their building from the school’s upper building this school year due to COVID restrictions.
After settling the K-5 program into their newly renovated building in December 2020, students had a weekly outing to the upper building, where middle and high school takes place. Then, with COVID restrictions this past fall, even that became impossible. That’s when Julianne Ross and Gwen Lantz, librarians, began towing children’s books weekly from the upper building across two parking lots and a bridge for elementary students to access.
Elementary librarian, Lantz is excited for students to now have access to hundreds of books right in their building. “They can finally have a place to call their own,” she said excitedly.
The new library is filled with sunlight and stacked from floor to ceiling with books of all different types of genres suitable for students K-5. Over the school’s 16 years, many books came from generous donors, according to Lantz. Although their collection is roughly 6,000 books to-date, Lantz and teachers are working to expand the types of books they offer. Lantz stated they are looking to grow their sections in sports non-fiction, graphic novels, drawing, and multicultural stories featuring characters and authors from many cultural and ethnic backgrounds.
Students come by class groups to the library for 30 minutes each week where they enjoy a story time and browse on their own to check out books. They can also come to the library and check out books outside of their classroom time two mornings and one afternoon a week.
Students excitedly ran from shelf to shelf, looking for the perfect book to take home during a recent visit. Many consulted with friends and skim books together to see if that was exactly what they wanted to check out. One student excitedly stated that his favorite thing about the new library was, “the chance to be able to check out all of the books we like.”
“It is really gratifying to see the student’s excitement and feel the energy in this new space,” says Maria Archer, K-8 principle who has been with the school since the beginning in 2005. “Reading and time spent with books is so crucial to child development, so we are eager for the children to get the chance to spend relaxed time in this new space.”