Library renaissance

All the shelves in the Newton-Conover High School library are empty.

Students ask librarian Beverly Hall where the books have gone.

Hall is able to tell the students that, soon, there will be new books on new shelves in a revived library that will also include new carpet, new fluorescent lighting, new tables and a variety of other improvements.

Hall's now in her third year as librarian at the school. The library renovation project has been in progress for about two years.

"When I came into this library, there wasn't much activity," she said. "Libraries are going through this transformation. We needed a catalyst.

The media center is supposed to be a hub for the whole school."

A $9,775 School Library Collection Development Grant from the State Library of North Carolina will help fill the shelves with new books, replacing some volumes that dated to the late 1800s, Hall said.

Newton-Conover City Schools met the grant's required $1 match for every $4 in grant money.

The state Department of Public Instruction recommends 10 books be available for every one student, Hall said. There were 3,730 books serving 775 students in the library. Hall said the new books will inch the school closer to the state recommendation.

"It's a step in the right direction," she said.

Assistant Principal Kim Kaylor helped Hall gather information about the library grant. Kaylor is on the school's media advisory committee. She previously taught at Bunker Hill High School, where the library had outdated books and the librarian also worked to improve the collection.

Kaylor said Hall had a vision to make the Newton-Conover library a comfortable place for students.

"(Hall) has worked diligently for this grant, which is going to add volumes and great resources for these students to use," Kaylor said.

The list of financial help for the library renovation also includes a $25,000 Lowe's grant, $2,500 from Home Depot and a $3,000 grant from Dollar General for books to help students learning to read in English.

There's also a list of people who have helped make the transformation possible. It includes Elizabeth Reilly, Liz Van Horn and Tim Elliott – who have helped with the redesign of the library – and many parents and community members.

Hall said that Elliott told her on a recent library visit that the space looked the same as it did in 1977, when he graduated from the school.

Kaylor said the redesign will include an arts section separated by three glass panels and it will include a seating area with "a Barnes and Noble effect."

In recent years, the library has also upgraded its technology equipment. A new projection screen, speakers and microphones were installed, and new educational software and online programs were purchased.

Hall grew up loving libraries.

She said she wants children today to love them, too, even as libraries evolve through technology. By Thanksgiving, she said, the updated library should be ready for the challenge.