NORTH LIBERTY– Painters from Lowe’s will deck the library halls over winter break at Penn Elementary as part of a $25,531 grant the school received from Lowe’s Charitable and Educational Foundation.
The project is already underway and scheduled to be completed by February 2013. The makeover includes new moveable shelving, a new circulation desk and other furniture. The Penn Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) is supporting the project by contributing $5,000 for new tables and chairs in the library’s classroom area.
Teacher-librarian Debra Dorzweiler was proud that she was able to keep the school library and media center open for students during the makeover, but for now she’s making do during the gradual arrival of items.
Getting ready for the shipments and installations (a new circulation desk is still on the way), Dorzweiler arranged fiction/non-fiction shelving in Penn’s existing shelves along the outer wall of the library.
The library’s newly-arrived bookshelves and tables are on wheels to allow for easy reconfiguring of learning spaces.
With the new shelves, a story area for younger grades is being created inside a moveable room of picture books.
The smartboard– a digital overhead projector and white board with hookup for computer and other inputs– was given a permanent place on the wall after holding a makeshift position that sometimes had kids walking through the projector’s light path during other classes.
Penn’s library is also used for PTO and staff meetings, and the new tables and chairs are more comfortably-sized for adults and older kids.
Lori Doerschug wrote the grant, first ever for the Penn parent. She was researching a smaller Lowe’s grant and, after talking with Penn principal Kristy Heffner and Dorzweiler, crafted a plan to replace the library’s aging furniture, circulation desk and shelving.
Some furniture was built by Iowa Prison Industries and Dorzweiler said IPI had helped layout and design the new floor plan as well.
Because the grant was awarded over the summer, the work couldn’t begin until after school had started.
In late December, a Lowe’s crew will come in to paint and prep the walls for a mural by local artist Sayuri Sasaki Hemann. She’ll paint quotes from children’s literary classics around the top of the walls. Hemann was recommended after producing some similar work at Lincoln Elementary.
Dorzweiler and Doerschug agreed that Penn has one of the smallest libraries in the district, used by one of the most populated elementary schools. About 500 students attend this northernmost school of the Iowa City Community School District (ICCSD).
The new layout is designed to improve traffic flow and allow fewer disruptions for library users. The doorways of two classrooms and a computer lab exit into the library, making for less than conducive library time.
“Traffic in the library is disruptive to Debra and the kids,” Doerschug said. She thought the grant would make it easier for students, but the lack of floor space was still a concern.
“The library hasn’t changed much in 50 years,” she said.
ICCSD superintendent Stephen Murley has indicated that his administration’s comprehensive facility plan will put Penn at the top of the list for remodeling.
A dedication and celebration for the Penn library makeover is being organized for February.
Lowe’s Charitable and Educational Foundation chairperson Marshall Croom said that with the Penn grant, “(Lowe’s is) contributing to a cause that’s important to our customers and employees and helping build a stronger foundation for the children who will be tomorrow’s employees, homeowners, and community leaders.” Find out more about the program at www.lowes.com/socialresponsibility .