and was the recipient of a 2017 Peggy Hallisey Lifetime Achievement Award.
I started by engaging our students and teachers in a contest. I posted the information on the library website and sent it to their all-school email accounts. After distributing some background about my idea, I asked them, “ What do you want your library cafe to be named?” There was an overwhelming response, and the name StarBooks Library Cafe won the vote. Students created posters and compiled rules for StarBooks.
Teachers often use StarBooks Cafe as a way to reward their class for a job well done. The teacher may schedule the cafe for their whole class as a reward for good behavior and a change of scenery. Beverages are purchased for everyone at a discounted price while students engage in a lesson or discussion. Sometimes a teacher will send an individual student with a pass specifically for having a treat in the cafe because they have done well. When a class is scheduled
for research in the library, and a student has completed the daily objective, the teacher will often let them “hang out” in the cafe as a reward for completing the assignment.
StarBooks Cafe also serves as a place to learn social manners, how to interact in a diverse group, and shows what it means to have respect for a place so that everyone can enjoy time spent there. The students participated in creating the rules, and they realize having a cafe in the library is a privilege. Students are allowed to listen to music on their headphones at a low volume. Texting is not allowed. Socializing is encouraged. The cafe is a safe place for face-to-face interactions and conversation. The addition of board games and jigsaw puzzles has been a positive experience. Students engage in healthy competition and problem solving. Some students bring their bag lunch to the cafe during their lunchtime. Again, the library cafe serves as a safe place for students preferring a less intimidating experience than the cafeteria crowd.
On Fridays StarBooks celebrates International Food Day. Various clubs take turns selling ethnic foods to raise funds for activities. There have been a few episodes when people have been asked to leave, but overall the cafe is a safe learning environment that remains respected by everyone and stays clean. It is the student's’ responsibility to maintain the cafe, making sure containers are filled, water is in the coffee maker, the games are neatly put away, and the tables are clean. They take pride in the cafe and the library. Students respect the cafe space and take care of it. They are fully aware the Chicopee Comprehensive High School LIbrary and StarBooks Cafe is a “hidden gem” in what can sometimes be a long, hard school day.
Naturally, the library caters to more than just the cafe students and teachers. Last year almost 500 classes used the library for research assignments and various projects. Over 35,000 individual students, not counting classes, visited the library to read, borrow materials, study, use computers, print 3D objects and benefit from StarBooks Library Cafe! Of course, not all of them were readers, but realistically a library is so much more than just books.
In the future, I hope to establish a StarBooks Library Cafe scholarship fund. The idea is still in the planning stages. However, the goal is to award money to the student that best exemplifies the the spirit, the mission and the diversity represented in our school library. The scholarship, much like the cafe itself, will serve as an example for students to come together, and work towards a better school community.