In the winter of 2019, Lanier Middle School* Principal Dr. Tammara Hanna and librarians Sophia Wells-Williams and Nancy realized the school library was not being used to its fullest potential. Two years ago, thanks to funding from the City Schools, the school began providing every student with a laptop. This eliminated the need for a traditional computer lab; however, the library was still cluttered with large tables and desks which had been used as computer stations, and the furniture was old and uncomfortable. The learning space was stuck in the past.
At the January 2020 City School Board work session, Principal Hanna and Wells-Williams presented potential innovations to the City of Fairfax School Board with detailed plans to renovate the library. Their idea was to create a space similar to a college student union that would fit with how students in 2020 and beyond prefer to learn. They made the case for an updated library that would accommodate more kids at one time, encourage research and collaboration, and better serve the school community.
Their plans included:
- Maximizing space for students to collaborate and conduct research
- Modernizing the computer lab with spaces for students to sit and work in small groups
- Replacing the bulky, heavy furniture that was cumbersome to rearrange with furniture that is easy to move and assemble, making it easier for community users and organizations to adapt the space to their preferences.
Thinking ahead and waiting for the right time to realize the dream of a modern, collaborative space, Principal Hanna saved money, solicited donations from the community, and worked with the city school board and FCPS to secure $75,000 for the project. The school was already budgeted to receive new carpet, tile, and paint in 2020 as part of the City Schools Capital Improvement Program and the library had been closed since March due to the pandemic. The right time to update the library was now.
With new carpet and newly-painted walls, the library has been transformed into an open-space learning center complete with charging stations for students to connect and collaborate. The updated library includes new collaboration spaces with new furniture. The size of the circulation desk was reduced to create more space. New whiteboards were installed for teachers to work with small groups of students. The librarians audited the books to ensure they were relevant to students in 2021.
“As a teacher-librarian, I am thrilled to use this newly renovated space to partner with teachers of all content areas,” said Wells-Williams. “In the past, I’ve had students reference the library as their haven or sanctuary. I’m proud to be part of this renovation, which made the space more inviting and will enable our library to be a haven for even more students in our Lanier community.”
“Like our downtown is the heart of the City of Fairfax, our library has now become the heart of our school,” said Dr. Hanna. “We are excited to see how our 21st century learners are able to develop their skills in this new, collaborative and welcoming environment.”
**The City of Fairfax School Board voted in October 2020 to change the name of Lanier Middle School to Katherine Johnson Middle School. The new name will go into effect this summer.