The two new middle schools in Comal ISD, Danville and Pieper Ranch were designed to promote learning throughout their campuses. While they still feature traditional classrooms, they also feature comfortable seating areas outside those classrooms with walls that serve as white boards or screens, and their libraries serve as the campuses’ epicenters.
While typical school libraries have a door and a “quiet please” sign placed predominantly for everyone to see, DMS and PRMS libraries have no doors, no “keep quiet” signs, and they are located literally in the center of the campus.
“School libraries are not quiet, closed off places anymore,” says Jessica Powell, librarian at PRMS. “There is seldom a time in our library where you will not hear the buzz of socializing, creating, integrating technology or movement. The library also no longer serves one activity or audience at a time. There can be multiple activities going on simultaneously.”
During passing periods, students can return or check out books, stop to ask a quick question, print a paper, or just say, “Hello,” to the librarian.
“Libraries are more than just a place to house books,” agrees Melissa Zipp, librarian at DMS. “With the location of the library at DMS central to the academic area and open for passing periods, I believe students have gained more access to the learning commons and myself.
“Students who would probably never purposely seek the library now come regularly, either to get a book or just to talk,” Zipp continues. Additionally, “teachers send students to work on projects throughout our learning commons, and I can help and guide as time allows.”
PRMS Eighth Graders Brooklyn Webster and Autumn Nelson have enjoyed being able to stop by the library whenever they have the chance. They also like how comfortable the area is, saying they often sit on the floor to read or study.
“My greatest hope is that every student knows this is their place to explore and discover, and that these books belong to them and to the community,” Powell says. “Librarians wear so many hats these days, especially with the need for good, credible resources to help students become more independent learners, but I hope students know they are our number one priority.”
Both Powell and Zipp agree that the open-concept library has created an increase in library use.
“We sort of see everything and are sort of involved in everything,” Powell says. “Being visible and present seems to draw in readers and curious learners. Kids truly feel like it’s their space when they don’t have to open a big, heavy door to access the treasures within.”
Photos from top.
-Eighth Grade Student Aides from left Brooklyn Webster, Autumn Nelson and Joey Siskey help Pieper Ranch Middle School Librarian Jessica Powell shelve, organize and register books.
-Pictured are eighth grade students from Danville Middle School with DMS Librarian Melissa Zipp. From left is Maddie Colhoun, Zipp, Grace Conley and Jackson Reed.
-An overview of the open-concept library at Pieper Ranch Middle School.