Burroughs Library Loft Boosts Student Creativity And Engagement

By On April 10, 2015

The John Burroughs High School library now boasts of an art library and creative activity center, known collectively as the Burroughs Library Loft. After months of collaborative brainstorming and physical work by librarian Julie Grene and JBHS art teacher Beth Morrison, common areas of the library have been transformed into a place for students and teachers to explore art, create art and integrate art into daily lives and studies.

“I’ve been talking about Arts Integration for many years, and I truly believe that leveraging the Arts (all of the Arts) is the best vehicle to make connections between disciplines, lessons, life and the world,” commented Morrison. “Now we have a resource center for all of the teachers here at Burroughs.”

(Photo By Lisa Paredes)

(Photo By Lisa Paredes)

Funded by a Burbank Arts For All Foundation (BAFA) grant for books, supplies and resources and a donation of furniture, manpower and materials from IKEA, the Burroughs Library Loft began to emerge in November 2014. Both Morrison and Grene point to the strong support of  then Principal John Paramo as vital to the realization of the project.

Morrison and Grene spent weekends and vacation days to work on the Library Loft, which officially opened for student and teacher use in February 2015.

“Beth and I obtained all the materials that were not from IKEA and did the manual labor involved with those materials,” commented Grene. “Beth is an amazing creative can-do type of person. Our creative spirits work well together.”

(Photo By Lisa Paredes)

(Photo By Lisa Paredes)

“The IKEA team spent a day here assembling the furniture and installing all shelving. IKEA even took the time to create vinyl wall appliques of our chosen words in the fonts I requested, then came and applied those as well,” explained Grene. “They were really great to work with. Scotty, our maintenance man, was also involved with the Mondrian ceiling. He helped by removing all the tiles we needed to paint. One of the wood shop students came and waxed the tabletops.”

(Photo By Lisa Paredes)

(Photo By Lisa Paredes)

“The Loft has been well received by both students and staff. People love the inviting and welcoming atmosphere that’s been created,” continued Grene. “It’s been really fun to see students gravitate toward the space. We already have ‘regulars’ utilizing the supplies creatively every day at lunch. I have plans to do more organized activities and after school workshops next year in order to get more students involved.”

The Burroughs Library Loft has assisted a Health class, an English class and a special needs class to complete art projects. Students create magnetic poetry, write inspirational sayings, draw pictures on the chalkboard columns and draw at the tables.

Once monthly, substitute teacher Brian Kukan hosts an after-school meditation group, Breathing Among The Books, open to students, teachers and staff. The group has grown from just a few students at the beginning to nearly 30 students at the most recent meeting April 1. The next, and last meeting for the current school year, is slated for May 6.

“I come for the relaxation and to de-stress,” science teacher Jill Tobin told students attending the most recent Breathing Among The Books gathering, most of whom were first or second-time attendees.

“I’m so happy that our students are making great use of the space and all of the resources. I’ve been using the display space for student work a lot more than I had planned or anticipated,” Morrison also said. ” I love the flexibility, as well as the opportunity to showcase the work of our very creative and talented students. And I love that so many people are interested, engaged, exposed, and responding so positively, to the works of art that are put on display.”

(Photo By Lisa Paredes)

(Photo By Lisa Paredes)

“I think we knew from the beginning that the Loft would follow the ‘if we build it, they will come philosophy, but I didn’t really think so much about the ‘my special place’ aspect that the Loft has provided for so many individual students. There are quite a few students that have now found their ‘special place’ on campus.”

“We’re still adding to the resources, but at least we have a place for teachers to go to find ideas and inspiration,” added Morrison. “We’re also planning a series of workshops for teachers to get some hands-on experience with Arts Integration.”

One of Morrison and Grene’s many goals for the Burroughs Library Loft concept is for other schools to adopt the concept and built their own version of an Arts Library.  Luther and Jordan Middle Schools have responded positively and want to create resource centers of their own, according to Morrison.

The library is officially open 7:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. every school day. Peer tutoring is offered by California Scholarship Federation students Monday through Thursday for one hour after school gets out.

(Photo By Lisa Paredes)

(Photo By Lisa Paredes)

The library has computers, textbooks, magazines, newspapers, a photocopier for student use and reference books, said Grene, who also tries to have additional supplies on hand that students may need to complete their school work.

While the library has limited availability in April and May to accommodate testing and textbook collection, Grene looks forward to the fall semester and events planned for the coming school year. Monthly Creative Challenges, after school workshops, teacher workshops, a Curator’s Club to introduce students to careers in the art business are some of the upcoming plans she has in the works, all while continuing to expand the resources available to teachers and students.

The JBHS library also hosts PTSA meetings and after-school poetry readings and song writing workshops for students, along with college and career planning workshops several times throughout the year.