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Hope High School opens University-funded library redesign

$150,000 from Fund for Education of the Children of Providence supported project

After 11 months of work and $150,000 of University support, Hope High School opened its redesigned library and media center June 7, according to a University press release. The project is the latest Brown payout to the Providence Public School District from the Fund for the Education of the Children of Providence, a $10 million endowment for the district. 

The project was a collaboration between representatives from the University, the PPSD, the Rhode Island Department of Education and Hope High School. 

Nora Dimmock, deputy University librarian, was one of the University members on the library redesign committee. “The most important thing was listening to what the (Hope) principal and the dean of students and the vice principals and other teachers and students had to say about what they wanted and letting them really lead,” she said. 

The colorful renovated library contains updated furniture, expanded collaborative work spaces and new technology and books. 

RI Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green aided the project and spoke at the ribbon cutting ceremony. “The improvements being made across Providence Public Schools are a value statement letting our students know that we care about their education and want to see them succeed,” she wrote in an email to The Herald. “When I first visited the library at Hope High School, I knew that we had to make drastic improvements that would in turn inspire students to learn. Working closely with Brown University President Paxson (P’19), we revitalized the space, introduced new book offerings, and added new furniture and technology to offer a state-of-the-art media center.”

Joanna Saltonstall, senior program manager of interiors at the University’s facilities department, helped oversee the project, managing its budget and schedule and working on aspects of the design process. “It was really great to go in … and give the kids there a real opportunity to have something bright and airy and well equipped,” she said. 

Sarah O’Brien, senior design project manager at Panello, a sales and project management firm, has worked with the University for 23 years. On the library renovation, she helped bring the design vision to fruition, updating the flooring, reimagining work spaces and incorporating new furniture. She said a 21st century library is “a meeting space” and “a community space” where students can collaborate in addition to studying alone. 

She emphasized the adaptability of the revitalized library, noting that “everything is on wheels; everything is flexible.” 

Susanne Gordon, Hope High School librarian, said she enjoyed working with the University on the project. “The best part of the whole process was forging these relationships,” she added. She also noted that the design team took her suggestions seriously. 

Gordon worked with Dimmock to order over 300 new books to add to the school’s collection. Dimmock said that the two librarians crafted their list based on input from students, staff and administrators. 

“We had an opportunity to select books from topics that were of interest to students from really diverse backgrounds,” Dimmock said. The process was “enhancing what was a very good collection, but small.” She added that part of their work included ordering multiple copies of certain books so that students and classes could read and discuss the titles together. 

Some texts added include The Hill We Climb by Amanda Gorman, Born a Crime by Trevor Noah and Can't Stop Won't Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation by Jeff Chang. Also added were more graphic novels, books about visual artists like Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera and poetry by Maya Angelou. 

Gordon said Hope students have been taking advantage of the new space. “It seemed to make them more serious,” she said. “They would come in, work in a group or work together, and that was really gratifying.” 

Dimmock and Gordon both expressed their excitement for potential future collaborations between the University and Hope High School. “We'll be hiring a librarian for community engagement later this summer, and I would imagine that they'll be involved in any kind of partnership we move forward with (with) Hope High School,” Dimmock said. 

Gordon envisions that the Hope students in the newly created and University-funded International Baccalaureate program will use University libraries in their work. “It's great for my students to see the potential of a place like Brown,” she said.



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