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Library grows high tech

Students at Iron River Elementary School are enjoying the freedom of extra space this year. The finishing touches of the school's expansion were completed this month with the arrival of lockers, computers and furniture for the school's media center.

Students at Iron River Elementary School are enjoying the freedom of extra space this year.

The finishing touches of the school's expansion were completed this month with the arrival of lockers, computers and furniture for the school's media center.

Students are already taking advantage of the study capabilities of their computer lab, which is attached to the school's new expanded library.

"It's nicer," said student Lyndi Graff.

The library and computer labs have only been up and running for about two weeks. The furniture and computers were not delivered in time for the start of school in mid-September. But students have already used the new lab to research topics from science to history, Graff said.

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Marissa Halvorson used the lab to write adventure stories. While Labia Hanrahan's class used the computers to research and write stories about the Anasazi people, she said.

"We have our own space," Halvorson said.

Previously, the computer lab at the school was mobile. Laptops were moved from classroom to classroom, but the system was inefficient. The laptops were often not reliable because the batteries would run out.

The laptops also couldn't easily be used by students in the library because the room was so small there wasn't space for tables and chairs, said Shari Olson, media teacher and librarian.

"It will be nice for kids to have somewhere to sit," Olson said. "We haven't had that in a number of years."

With the new lab ready to go, Olson plans to teach Iron River students how to use search stations in the library, which allow students to search for a book's call number on the computer then find it on a corresponding shelf. Olson also teaches students author studies, Internet safety and how to evaluate Web sites.

Libia Hanrahan enjoys new features in the computer lab, like an overhead projector that allows students to see what a teacher's doing as she opens pages on the computer.

The previous library had an overhead projector but since the computers couldn't be used there, students couldn't follow the directions simultaneously on their own machine, Olson said.

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It's nice that teachers can show directions on the overhead, and students can now type their stories on the computer and print them, Hanrahan said.

The library also has received some necessary upgrades, Olson said.

For the past two years, Olson has tended Iron River's library in a small inner room of the school that doubled as a music room.

"It was never a true library," she said. The room was designed as a storage area for media items; not as a library.

The book shelves took up all available wall space and were often arranged more for space considerations than organization. In the new library, kids comment on how many new books there are even though no books were added. They're just easier to find, she said.

The new library is about three times as large as the previous one. It now has space for books, tables and chairs and a separate reading rug, Olson said.

Keeping the books in order is already easier, she said.

"The kids love it. They just keep commenting on what a nice library we have now." she said. "Kids are the ones benefiting and seeing the differences. ... It's just a beautiful facility."

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The expansion also freed up space in the school for the art, music and Title 1 programs to have their own rooms. Special education and early intervention programs were also added at the building as a result of the additional space.

Anna Kurth covers education. Call her at (715) 395-5019 or e-mail akurth@superiortelegram.com .

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