JT West Library Renovation Update

Megan Krok, Views Editor

The Joliet West library and media center is receiving some well-needed renovations since the library was first completed back in 1964. Last October, Joliet Township announced at their monthly school board meeting that both the Central and West campus libraries would receive some major renovations within the next year. Surveys were collected on students’ opinions on their use of the library, and the librarians traveled to four different Chicago-area high school libraries and media centers to observe how students interacted with the state-of-the-art media centers.

Construction officially began on the library, as predicted despite COVID-19 concerns, in May. Renovations are expected to be completed by November 9th, however the library will officially be in use when all of the books will be put back into the library. The library books are currently in storage at Joliet Central in the school’s old cafeteria, as this space was large enough to hold West’s entire collection of books.

When the renovations were announced last year, a $5.4 million budget was reported to go to both the Joliet West and Central libraries combined. Luckily, the renovations cost $135,870–way under budget. This cost will go to some of the most prominent renovations including new technology. More specifically, there will be needed electrical updates, such as additional power outlets in the floor so power can reach more areas in the library. According to librarian Ms. Lingafelter, she and the other librarians, Ms. Walsh and Ms. Emerick, are excited for some basic updates, like furniture that is not 60 years old. But the renovations are going above and beyond basic furniture–there will be some “charging” furniture that allows students to charge their devices by plugging them into the chairs.

In regards to the technology updates, Ms. Lingafelter stated that she loves that there will be increased opportunities for students to collaborate. “The new design features a number of spaces where multiple students can project their individual laptop screens onto a larger collaboration screen at the same time.”

When it comes to a new approach in instructional practices, there will be plenty of new ways students can utilize the updated space. “The conceptual themes consist of reconfiguring the centers to include a variety of learning spaces such as individual study locations, small group semi-private booths, medium-sized group conference/workrooms, and areas capable of hosting entire classes for formal instruction or presentations,” Assistant Superintendent Dr. Ilandus Hampton expressed in a statement regarding the renovations last year.

Even though students are still doing E-Learning and there is no set date for when in-person learning will be resumed because of the COVID-19 outbreak, there will be safety precautions in place for those in the library. The openness of the library will provide plenty of room for students to properly social distance. However, the amount of students allowed in the library will be limited. Despite this, the librarians will make it a priority that all students have the opportunity to check out the renovated library if we return to school during the 2020-21 year. The library also has opportunities to safely access library books through curb-side pick up.

Despite students not being able to experience the atmosphere of the new and improved library in person, Ms. Lingafelter wants to ensure the West community that the spirit of the library remains the same. “The Library is a space in the school for all students and staff,” she stated. “The Library belongs to our school and to our school community, whether you’re coming in to check out a book, sitting at a table working on a group project, putting together a puzzle, listening to career speakers, visiting with your class to do research, participating in Book Club or Game Day, or simply sitting quietly in a comfy chair in the corner chilling. The Library belongs to all of us, and we’re excited to welcome everyone to the newly renovated space when it’s finished.” We cannot wait to see renovations when we can all safely return back to school!