No more 'SHHHHH': School libraries are no longer silent and strict

Published: Nov. 7, 2016 at 6:57 AM CST
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With music, laughing and a whole lot of talking, the atmosphere in your child's school library is getting louder. And students? Well, they love it.

"I absolutely love to be in here cause we have activities, and we have music and I can just be in here with my friends. Basically, it's the best place in the whole school," said Hannah VanGorkom, a senior at Nixa High School.

Nixa is the latest school to embrace a more social environment in the library, encouraging talking, music, group work and socializing.

"Student friendly, kid friendly... places where the students wanted to migrate and stay," said Julie Huff, Nixa High School Librarian.

With more classrooms encouraging hands-on, collaborative group work, it only makes sense that the library embraces that kind of learning too.

"They can do everything from Modge Podge to, they can paint, they can listen to music, they can crochet, they can do Legos, puzzles [and] board games," Huff said.

One of the latest projects in the Nixa High School library is called a breakout box, which operates a lot like an escape room.

"The first time I saw a breakout box, it was for the Holocaust, and you had a card and it told you who you were and what camp you were in, and then you had to try to open up this box with all these clues," VanGorkom said. "It was like the coolest way to learn about a subject cause it was interactive, and I love hands-on work... and you don't get a lot of that in high school."

VanGorkom is also part of a group of students who work in a writing group each day. The students read each other's essays to peer edit and practice giving presentations before they have to do it in front of an entire class. VanGorkom says it makes for an environment that feels more like college than high school, but it's a change that's only happened over the last couple of years.

"I remember my freshman year, the library was like really quiet, and I didn't want to be in here because I was afraid to make noise, and then this year, it's insane," she said.

But insane in the very best sense of the word. Without the pressure to follow the rules and be silent, students feel like they do a better job retaining what they're studying.

"It's a lot more laid back, I don't feel the pressure to memorize facts, you're learning something, you're learning how to apply it, and I find it's a lot easier to remember, and it's a lot more fun to learn," VanGorkom said.