Once Ms Rebella’s students heard about the project, they brainstormed and were ready to go. Students consulted with the principal, custodians, and other adults in the building to test out their ideas and form working plans in a variety of areas, all with the goal in mind of improving the library environment and fostering lifelong readers. Project teams now pursue a wide variety of goals including: showcasing student art on the library shelves, featuring sports titles in fiction and nonfiction, painting, moving and organizing shelves to create a more attractive space, creating a directory of online sources to support and promote learning, and assembling a flag display to highlight the diversity of the Carl Sandburg student community.
As the students worked, they were also able to voice some of their concerns about how to maximize the appeal of the library to ALL of the middle school students. Taking ownership of this concern, the students were able to pinpoint parts of projects that would celebrate the diversity of the CSMS students. One group initiated the formation of a DonorsChoose.org site in order to fund more titles for the library written in Spanish. As other groups consider the expansion of titles for the library, they research the cultural elements of both fiction and nonfiction pieces that could be added.
As the project continues to grow and expand throughout the school year, these students are also growing in their leadership skills and appreciation for the diversity of their school and community. As the idea born from a long drive home comes to fruition Ms Rebella states, “ We are lucky to have so many different backgrounds and cultures that make up our school community. We are also working with a unique age group, which is in the process of finding and developing a sense of identity. It is important to not only support our students in developing a positive sense of self-identity, but also in developing confidence, tolerance, and awareness.” In the hands of its students and staff, the CSMS library of the future is in good hands.