New cozy space for books encourages reading

Aimee Liu | The Chronicle

After years without a place to check out a book, Mason’s new Little Library has opened in Z203.

Mason High School (MHS) Campus Supervisor Tracy Zimmaro came up with the Little Library after finding out the Learning Commons was going to get renovated and she needed somewhere to keep the books.

“Production and demolition [in the Learning Commons] got started a little earlier than we expected,” Zimmaro said. “I wanted to make sure all the books were saved, so I contacted the English department and they got a space for the books.” 

After moving all the books to Z203, which was previously a computer lab, Zimmaro said custodial staff helped her find shelves that were not being used, and she began to work on the Little Library, organizing and alphabetizing all the books. With furniture that she found, Zimmaro said she started to create a temporary space to house everything that was previously kept in the Learning Commons, including fiction, nonfiction, graphic novels and DVDs.

“It’s a pretty decent space, and it’s made up of bookshelves, some tables and rolling carts,” Zimmaro said. “I put signs for the alphabet, so now it’s all organized and if someone were to want to go pick out a book, they would know it’s done by author.”

While MHS has not had a school library since the original library in the Learning Commons was closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Zimmaro emphasized the importance of offering students a place to check out hard copies of books. She said that although there was an electronic option during COVID, a lot of students prefer to have a physical book in their hand.

“What we’re going towards is an actual library,” Zimmaro said. “We have a Little Library now, and when the Learning Commons is renovated in the fall of 2024, we will have not only the books that we have in the Little Library, but hopefully new releases and students will be able to check out books.”

Honors English I and Creative Writing teacher Amanda Bross said that she places a huge emphasis on independent reading in her classroom, and that it is imperative for students to have a place to get books.

“My students read at the beginning of every bell, and accessibility to books is what is going to ensure that they’re reading, especially for more reluctant readers,” Bross said. “For students who maybe don’t know what to read, just being able to go to a space where they can access physical books is really important.”

For her students that may begin the school year dreading the idea of reading every day, Bross said helping them find books that work for them has helped them get excited about reading. She said she has seen the impact of reading extend further than academics.

“Developing that reading stamina is one of the academic reasons, but reading also just makes you a better person,” Bross said. “It makes you more empathetic, more understanding of other people’s stories, and it just makes you a better citizen of this world.”

In addition to encouraging reading and offering books for students to check out, the Little Library also hosts The Write Place, a center where students can go to receive peer feedback on their writing. Junior Write Place consultant Lydia Strousse said that she has enjoyed the new location, and that the electronic devices students now often read on may not work for everyone.

“I think having this collection of books is a really powerful tool because you don’t always know what you want to read, so you can just browse on through,” Strousse said. “It’s really important to have this backlog of books for kids to read.”

With fairy lights, lamps and arm chairs, Strousse said that fostering an inviting atmosphere was a huge focus when creating the space for both the library and The Write Place. Having a designated space to both check out books and get writing help, Strousse said she hopes to see more traffic in the library.

“Sometimes it can be a little nerve-wracking to ask for another pair of eyes on your writing, and we wanted it to be as friendly and cozy as possible,” Strousse said. “The environment is very warm and inviting, and it’s the perfect lighting for mellow reading.”

Bross said that although classroom libraries are important, the cozy atmosphere and dedicated purpose of the Little Library will hopefully encourage students to utilize the space and go in to read.

“We’re excited to have that space where we can take students beyond our classroom libraries,” Bross said. “I think that change of scenery, looking at some different books is going to be really valuable.”

Even for a semester while the Learning Commons experiences renovation, Zimmaro said that the fact she could create a Little Library to allow students to check out books speaks to the school’s adaptability.

“I feel like Mason is a huge proponent of change and just adapting to [it],” Zimmaro said. “You just have to roll with things, even if it’s a little library, and make the best of what you can.”

Although many of the logistics like when students can access the library are still being discussed, Zimmaro said that she just hopes to support the space and help students continue to have access to books.

“My role is just to help and be there for whoever wants,” Zimmaro said. “I’m a big proponent of reading and literacy and I want students to be able to have access to books. Not everyone has a library card or a way to get to the library, so this is a nice alternative for people who don’t have that access.”