New Initiatives in the Library

During the final week of fall term, library director Mark Melchior implemented two initiatives in the library: he sought both to create a more relaxing study environment by turning on the previously unused fireplace and to promote love of literature by displaying “Books for Break.” As a first-year faculty member, he hopes to bring changes to the library that will make it a more useful and accessible space.

In between the two entrances to the schoolhouse library is a couch and collection of chairs facing a fireplace. Though this section of the library is a favorite for many students, its gaslit fireplace had not been lit previously. Mr. Melchior decided to turn the fireplace on in order to counteract exam-related anxiety, informing students through an email titled “Codename: Chestnut.” In describing his goals behind this initiative, Mr. Melchior said, “I want people to think of the library as a place where they can relax. It did seem like people visibly relaxed being around the fire. During exam week, that seemed like something to prioritize.”

Based on the large numbers of students who “flocked” to the fire, this initiative was successful in terms of popularity. According to Mr. Melchior, faculty members similarly expressed enthusiasm. Although he has not come up with a specific policy for future fire usage, Mr. Melchior plans to turn on the fireplace on occasionally based on student input and interest. 

In addition to his conviction of the importance of relaxation, Mr. Melchior believes that students should maintain a genuine love for reading that extends beyond coursework. After facing the rigors of Groton, students might see reading only as a source of anxiety rather than an enjoyable pastime. Mr. Melchior said, “I think it is nice to realize that books have many different kinds of uses, and it can be about gaining knowledge and information but it can also about relaxation and developing your curiosity.” Katherine Johnson ‘20 agrees, “I’ve checked out books for pleasure in the past, and I find that that type of reading really helps me to de-stress. I love how the Groton library makes all genres of books extremely accessible.”

With this goal of promoting a love of reading in mind, Mr. Melchior implemented the “Books for Break” initiative. He displayed the selected books on easels near the two entrances of the library and labelled each book with a specific theme. Many of the books were young adult fiction because he felt that students would more easily be able to relate to them. Groton English courses generally do not teach YA novels because of their lower reading levels, so these books can provide a beneficial change in pace. The selected books also centered around topics like LGBTQ, the #MeToo movement, the #BlackLivesMatter movement, and the coming of age experience. In this way, Mr. Melchior attempted to appeal to student interest. “I focused on trying to meet people in places where they might otherwise not encounter their ‘thing,’” he explained.

Based on the number of empty easels, the “Books for Break” initiative succeeded in influencing more students to check out books. Mr. Melchior plans to continue this initiative for every break in the future and believes that, as students grow more accustomed to it, it will yield even greater results. He is also currently collecting young adult books in the sections directly beneath the displayed books. Eventually, the displays above may not even be necessary once students know where to locate these lighter reads.

The “Books for Break” initiative generally received positive feedback from students and faculty. Mr. Melchior said, “People have really responded to seeing books presented in the way that we present them now where their covers are faced out, where you’re seeing individual books not just a row of spine labels.” The display format encouraged students to browse and find an eye-catching cover.

In addition to the two initiatives that he has already implemented, Mr. Melchior plans to put relevant books in the Counseling Office, Health Center, and Wellness Center. He envisions students in these spaces finding certain reading materials relevant to their lives. Like “Books for Break,” this initiative would strive to make literature more accessible to students. In cases where students are not willing to go to the library to seek out books, they might be more likely to pick up one that is sitting right in front of them.

One initiative at a time, Mr. Melchior seeks to make the library an even better place for students to read and work. The library is a central feature of the schoolhouse and, under Mr. Melchior’s enthusiastic guidance, it will continue to improve in accordance with student needs.