Books disappearing off Learning Commons Shelves

Anushka Mukherjee | Staff Writer

Senior Anvi Arora spend much of her childhood at her school’s library, which helped her widen her perspective.

It seems that everyone is overbooked these days – except the bookshelves in the Learning Commons. 

According to the Ohio Department of Education, libraries play in integral role in shaping well-rounded students and setting them up for success because it leads to increased literacy and learning. Since the 2016 school year, the Learning Commons has removed many of the bookshelves due to a drop in student interest and the evolving vision of the “Learning Commons.” 

Virginia Robinson, the media specialist for Mason High School, is working to rebuild the library to ensure students have a safe space to explore and learn. 

“We have gone through a few name changes, such as from ‘Media Center’ to the ‘Learning Commons,’ over the course of time,” Robinson said. “They were working towards building an environment where people could just come, work with each other and collaborate. This space has multiple purposes for students, and so part of that led to some bookshelves being replaced with high tables.”

For senior Anvi Arora, libraries play a crucial role in students’ lives because it helps them grow not only academically, but also as people. She said she’s had some great experiences with libraries and hopes Mason High School has more books when she comes to visit after graduation. 

“My parents both worked when I was in elementary school in Arizona, and many times I’d have to stay in the library,” Arora said. “I spent a lot of time reading and meeting new people and that allowed me to expand my perspective. It’s also where I got an opportunity to help out my librarian and develop some organization skills. It’s sad that MHS has taken away so many bookshelves.”

The space has never been labeled as the “Library” because of the different ways students utilize it and its development over the years. However, Robinson said she believes the removal of the books presented her with an opportunity to better understand the preferences of the students when it comes to reading material. 

“It’s important to have strong library program in order to encourage literacy because it helps students be more well-rounded,” Robinson said. “I appreciate the weeding of the books that weren’t used as much by the students because it allowed me to get a sense of what types of books to order to help rebuild the library.” 

Whether it is fiction or nonfiction, every book is a portal for learning for students, said Jennifer Leitsch, a freshman English teacher. She believes that books and libraries promote access to new materials. There is a certain humanistic quality to libraries that can’t be experienced online or anywhere else, according to Leitsch. Books allow students to be better people and help them grow through life. 

“When you walk into a library, and there are books everywhere, it’s this diverse hub of access,” Leitsch said. “There’s a certain sense of humanity in walking down a row of books that you don’t get online. Yes, everything is at our fingertips, but physically being in a room surrounded by beautiful books with intriguing covers is far more inspiring. And when we read in class, even for just ten to fifteen minutes, they enjoy those moments because it reminds them of the simplicity of picking up a book, looking at it, holding it and reading it.”

English teachers are finding ways to encourage students to read a little everyday so they model it outside the classroom. Nichole Wilson, a senior English teacher, has noticed that students don’t read enough for pleasure. This year, she opened up her classroom library and implemented independent reading time in her classes. She said she was ecstatic to see that students still check out books from her library, and the number is much higher than her previous years. 

“The reading time helps raise awareness and literacy because of the exposure that the students are getting to the various books,” Wilson said. “What I have seen is a decline in the imaginative powers of students and they are losing their ability to connect with humanity and universal themes. And I believe that books help build that sense of empathy and character.”

Amanda Bross, a freshman English teacher, also believes in the power of exposure and how having access to books helps students to further their knowledge. 

“When there are books of various choices readily available like at a school library, it’s easier for students to be attracted to it and read it,” Bross said. “And those who say they hate reading just haven’t found the right book. In the English classes we put a lot of emphasis on independent reading because it’s our mission to earn back the love for reading together.”

Photo by Anushka Mukherjee.