Lawrence Township Education Foundation donates $50000 for LHS library work. Library renovations will create a collaborative, modern learning environment.

With a $50,000 grant in hand, Lawrence Township School District officials are getting ready to launch phase II of the Lawrence High School library renovation project.

   The Lawrence Township Education Foundation presented a check for $50,000 to the Board of Education last week. The renovation project is expected to be completed in time for the 2014-15 school year.

   Phase II of the high school library renovation project will include converting an existing conference room into a “quiet space” that can be used by study groups, said Paul Schindel, president of the education foundation’s board of trustees.

   Improvements to the circulation desk and library signage also are planned, Mr. Schindel said. A second “juice bar,” or a charging station for electronic devices such as cell phones and laptop computers, is included in the project. A charging station was included in the first phase of the renovation project, and it has proven to be popular with the students, he said.

   There is money to purchase 28 more Chromebooks, which are small laptop computers, for use by students in the library. The first grant allocated money to buy nearly 60 Chromebooks, replacing 23 desktop computers.    Carina Gonzalez, the high school library media specialist, thanked the education foundation for the grant. She prepared the initial grant application with Lawrence High School Assistant Principal Alyson Fischer last year.

   Ms. Gonzalez told the school board last week that since the first phase was completed, the number of checkouts has increased by 73 percent between October 2012 and October 2013. There has been an overall 55-percent increase in overall library space usage, and a 76-percent increase in database usage, she said.

   Chromebooks are so popular, Ms. Gonzalez said, that “we run out of them every day.”

   The juice bar, or charging station, is popular with students, she said. It’s the first place they go when they enter the library. They don’t want to leave it, she said, and that’s why there is a need for more charging stations.

   ”I look forward to seeing what awesome things we can do next,” Ms. Gonzalez said.

   The first phase of the library renovation project was accomplished with a $46,000 grant from the Lawrence Township Education Foundation. The project was completed last year. It eliminated the desktop computers that lined the walls and set up tables where students could gather to collaborate and share ideas for a class project.

   Bookshelves were lowered by 25 percent. Research has shown that “reluctant readers” are intimidated by tall bookshelves, so shelving was reduced in height. The students think that the more difficult books are placed on the taller shelves.

   The goal of the renovation is to move the classroom into the library. Students can collaborate more easily in the library rather than in the classroom, because desks are not conducive to group learning, school district officials said.