By Austin Tyner
Reed-Gumenick Library is the hub of Middle School life. Students come here for books, of course, but also to collaborate, study, and use the Makerspace. The library is a welcoming, wide open space for all Middle Schoolers to use, dotted with little tables, and abundant, versatile seating.
The library was built in 1960 and renovated in 2013, at the same time as the construction of the Academic Commons. Prior to 2013, students from grades 5-12 used the same library. I personally remember how the upperclassmen would hang out before school in the big blue chairs near the front of the library, and the rest of the students would gather in little groups around them or chat among the wood-panelled rows of books. Now, the Middle Schoolers have Reed-Gumenick Library, and all of its updated features, to themselves.
Renovations added many new features to the building, along with giving it a more open layout. It now boasts a skylight, a technology-friendly flex classroom, and a Makerspace. Shortly after renovations to the Reed-Gumenick Library were complete, the Makerspaces in that building and the Academic Commons were introduced by Collegiate School librarian Melanie Barker as “communal spaces where members share physical things like tools, equipment, and supplies.”
Today, the purpose of the RGL Makerspace is for students to be able to create and learn new skills without the pressure of deadlines or grades. MIddle School librarian Carolyn LaMontagne says it helps the students learn that, “failure is ok” and that when trying something new, “you don’t have to do it perfectly the first time.” Among the many skills that can be cultivated here, students have learned knitting, 3D printing, soldering, robotics, and sewing. The group has grown so popular that on a recent Thursday, when the Makerspace was open to students during recess, there were at least 100 students who chose to participate.
Because of its growing popularity, last year a group of students were chosen to be Makerspace Mentors. The mentors are leaders in the space who oversee the organization of the many materials available for use and who lead group projects in the space. These students originally met during activity period but now have a set time to met on Mondays.
The Makerspace even has its own mascot, an orange creature sewn by the students, named Lava. Makerspace mentors Eli B. (’24) and Eve C. (‘24) are currently working on constructing a swing for their mascot.
Over time, Reed-Gumenick Library has created an impressive online presence. The website run by the library offers news on various happenings in the library, along with book reviews in their blog, and fun “how-to’s.” LaMontagne says she has plans to expand the blog, and student involvement with it, by getting the students to start writing book reviews for it. LaMontagne says this will “give students a voice, because that’s what the library is really about.” The website also has an impressive collection of ebooks, although LaMontagne remarks that her students do seem to prefer their books in print.
Photos by Austin Tyner.
Featured image courtesy of Tymoff+Moss Architects.