Elementary School Creates a Modern Media Center from a Blank Slate
- February 23, 2023
- Anthony Bowie
When Voorhees Township Public Schools in Voorhees, N.J., decided to give all of its media centers makeovers, Osage Elementary School was one of four elementary schools that was more than ready for the experience. The 600-student school would become the first in the district to use MiEN’s furniture and design expertise to modernize its media center.
The school library and media specialist Caitlin Peluszak was excited to create a comfortable space that felt like home for students and bring their library into the 21st Century. She noted that kids learn better when they’re comfortable and when things are easily accessible to them. They worked with RJ at Emerald Business Supply to develop the original sketches for the new space while MiEN’s design team provided excellent support and direction to bring the sketches to life. The school opted for welcoming, calming colors and installed flexible furniture that can be moved around, changed, and adapted to the activities taking place in the space at any given time.
The district gutted the library and created a final design that included everything from wall paint colors to flooring to lighting. The project was completed over the summer and students and teachers began using the new media center for the 2022-23 school year.
As the school’s library and media specialist, Peluszak sees every grade level every day. Classes have their own weekly 30-minute special time based on their grade-level rotation.
During that time, students learn about literature appreciation; do coding and research projects; and learn about the procedures and policies for using the media center itself. They also do a lot with American Library Association awards, like the Sibert and the Caldecott, so students are exposed to a wide variety of reading opportunities.
The school has a culturally and socioeconomic diverse population. And while they do have a curriculum to follow, Peluszak also tries to squeeze in as much exposure to literature as possible while students are here at school.
A lot went into Osage Elementary School’s new media center. Home to about 12,000 books, for example, it was in need of more bookcases. Peluszak also wanted a “cozy corner” where kids could sit and do read-alouds and for the space’s 30-year-old carpet to be replaced by beautiful vinyl wood-like planks.
Peluszak also wanted to switch up the original library’s check-in procedures and position the books in a more logical manner. This gave the school the opportunity to start with a blank slate. For example, basic picture books were positioned near the circulation desk, knowing that younger students would need the most help selecting and checking out their books.
Sometimes Peluszak needs to be in two places at once, so she wanted to make sure the two places were close together. As a former special ed teacher she also focused on creating a very open and accessible space that everyone could enjoy and benefit from. She wanted to be able to move furniture around to accommodate those students using assistive devices, for instance, and for kids with attention difficulties to be able to relax on more comfortable furniture.
As she looks around at Osage Elementary School’s new media center, Peluszak knows exactly what her favorite feature is in the new space and it’s the cozy corner. It includes a tower of little round cushions and the kids pick up their soft cushions and go to the cozy corner for read-alouds. Students can sit on the cushions, or they can lay on them—whatever makes them comfortable, as long as they’re doing it appropriately.
Peluszak also likes how the new media center is organized for easy navigation. This promotes independence among students of all ages, and she credits MiEN with helping her achieve this goal. Now, the students can do a lot for themselves in the media center, which is really a perfect addition to the school. Everyone who comes in says how much they love it here.