Coal City Public Library District children's librarian Rene Norris assist a student in checking out a book. Coal City Intermediate School has partnered with the library to provide services while repairs are made to the roof of the school library.
Ann Gill Editor
The room is dark, the doors sealed and a sign warns all to, "keep out."
Students and staff at Coal City Intermediate School are complying with the order to stay out of the school library, a space that is typically busy during much of the school day.
District officials were forced to close the library when contractors installing a new heating and air conditioning system discovered a deficiency in one of the wooden trusses in the barrel roof over the library.
Jason Smith, the district's director of business services and technology, said the problem is a crack or split that runs through one of the wooden beams.
A contractor has been hired to shore up the truss and replace the damaged board. The cost is around $46,000 and work is expected to begin within the week.
Smith said the remaining trusses will be looked at during the repair and the work will be re-assessed at the close of the current school year to determine the long-term sustainability of the roof.
The project, including the installation of duct work for the heating and cooling system, is expected to be completed by Oct. 1. The library is slated to re-open at that time.
In the meantime, the school has partnered with the Coal City Public Library District to provide students with a library experience.
The public library has opened its doors, early in fact, to provide students with an opportunity to check out reading materials on a weekly basis.
"So far it's going really well and we are so happy to be able to help the school out," said Rene' Norris, head of the public library's children's department.
Each of the students has been provided with a public library card for use during their school visits. The card allows them to check out two books- fiction, non-fiction or a combination of the two. Once the books are returned the student can check out two more.
The school has 30 minutes built into the schedule each week for students to visit the library. The classes take the short walk down Garfield Street under the guidance of the school's librarian, Tina Vignocchi.
As she tells the students, the rules that apply in her library are the same when they visit the public library.
Intermediate school principal Tracy Carlson said the public library staff has been very welcoming to the students and has even made office space available for Vignocchi.
"We are so thankful to have this opportunity for our students, it's been a wonderful alternative," Carlson said.
When the announcement came that the library would be closed for the start of the school year, Vignocchi and Carlson started brainstorming ways to provide a library opportunity during the closure. Partnering with the public library made the most sense.
The school and library were already partners on a book sharing program and a book club. So when they went to Norris and library director Jolene Franciskovich with the idea, the public library jumped right in.
The library started welcoming school students on the very first day of classes. In all, seven sections of fourth and fifth grade will utilize the public library for at least the first six weeks of the school year.
Vignocchi noted that the partnership introduces a number of students to the public library's expansive collection of books. There are roughly 35,800 titles in the children and teen departments, and outside programing like craft days and the tween boys and girls clubs are offered too.
The school librarian indicated that for about one-half of the students it was their first visit to the public library.
"We hope to see some of the students come back to the library outside of school time," Norris said.