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Joseph W. Rodgers Library at CHS Back Online as Student-Centered JWR Culture and Resource Center – The Campus “Living Room”

Two years after closing for remediation and renovation, the former Joseph W. Rodgers Library at Cheltenham High School has been reborn as the Joseph W. Rodgers Culture and Resource Center (CRC)

 After a soft opening in the fall where student reviews included “Beautiful,” “Modern,” and “Cool and awesome,” the District hosted an event complete with ribbon cutting and tours on Thursday, Feb. 20. For most in attendance, the event was their first opportunity to be in the space and their reactions were much the same as the students’ were during the soft opening, but also included comments like, “This looks exactly like what they have at my daughter’s college.”

The 3,000-square-foot student-centered space, which cost $2.2M, is replete with soft seating, glass-covered private study rooms, sub-dividable classroom space, reference desk, technology helpdesk and an office against a backdrop of soothing yellow and gray hues. A glass wall looks out onto the high school courtyard and provides excellent light. Choosing not to recreate the space as it had been was a leap of faith by the board and administration and what came from it was a 21st-century space where students and faculty are encouraged to collaborate and where students can learn in a manner more in line with today’s trends. 

 “The true use of this space will become apparent quickly. It’s not your traditional library,” said “Librarian” Tom Cook, who now sees himself as more of a “guide on the side.” “For sure, it will be a place for students to collaborate and achieve success. We’re located in the old library space but it had to evolve to support our extensive digital research portal and expansive audiobook collection. We are now far better positioned to service students than we were previously.”

Cook has poured tremendous capital into digital resources, adding several services to Panther Search digital resources, including EBSCO Discovery Service, Grove Arts Online, Grove Music Online, Tales2Go, Britannica School and Infobase

 Operating in a decentralized manner, Cook will keep about 1,000 books on hand with an emphasis on three particular audiences: Immigrants, African-American males and LGBTQ+. Another 4,000 books will be spread about the high school in classrooms and department offices.

 “In addition to the classics, it’s important to have a selection of books on hand that resonate with all of our students,” Cook said.

The culture aspect of the center will include student art exhibitions, musical events and college visits, among other events. Cook said he’s going to keep board games on hand, as well, hoping students see the space as a “school living room.” 

See the evolution of the JWR CRC>