How a Linen Closet Came to be Known as Narnia
Narnia. The imaginary land in C.S. Lewis’ beloved Chronicles of Narnia series. A fantasy world that the young character, Lucy, discovers in the back of a seemingly ordinary wardrobe. Where beavers, mice, wolves and a lion act as humans do. A world of mythical centaurs, unicorns, fauns and dryads.
Narnia. Where a lamppost marks the border between our world, and a world where an epic battle between good and evil takes place, a tyrant is defeated, and children become the rulers.
Narnia. A world where hours may pass, but upon returning to our world, only seconds have transpired.
Nearly a year ago, New Chapters opened its third and final mini library at Orchard Place Campus. After creating two reading spaces at Aliber House and Bright House, where unused classrooms were converted into library spaces, we turned our attention to Jacobson House and Shiffler House and hit a slight roadblock. There was no space available at either of the two residential houses for a library room.
This is where creative minds came together to find a solution. The Orchard Place Campus staff had the idea that maybe, just maybe, we could use shelving that was being used for laundry storage in a hallway connecting the two buildings. A hallway that can be entered through doors from both the Jacobson building and the Shiffler building.
We were thrilled to have the space and immediately began renovating. The staff cleaned out half of the linens, as shelving was still needed for the other half. We painted the hallway and had custom bookshelves built. In June, the Jacobson-Shiffler Book Nook opened with more than 340 titles on its shelves. It quickly became a big hit with the kids!
This summer, Stacie and Laurie had the opportunity to visit the staff and kids at Jacobson and Shiffler houses and to check in with them about the library. One of the reasons the kids said they like the Book Nook is its current titles. They like having many different options to read, and the variety of genres to choose from. Having the Book Nook is really important to them, especially since not all of them can go off-campus to the public library. Several said that they appreciate the books because reading helps them cope.
Stacie and Laurie also used the opportunity to ask the kids what kinds of books they liked to read, and if they had any specific requests. The kids were super excited to have been asked and it was easy to see that they are big readers. Between the two houses there is a wide variety of ages and preferences, so it was evident that more books were needed to keep them interested and reading.
We started gathering all the new books that the kids had requested, then cataloging them in our database. This month we obtained nearly 100 new books, in direct response to the feedback and requests received from the kids. We couldn’t fit them all on the shelves! It became apparent that we needed to reorganize the titles, and that we needed more shelves. A lot more shelves. We met with the staff to see if anything could be done to relocate the remaining linen to enlarge the library. They were totally on board with the idea, and they did find a new home for the linens. We are beyond happy to have the entire hallway for the Book Nook and are in the process of having more custom bookshelves built. We’re thrilled to have the opportunity to double the size of the library for the Jacobson-Shiffler kids by adding 400 more books!
We know the books we’ve provided so far are really important to the kids, and that they are very appreciative of the opportunity to read. The Book Nook is available upon request from the youth. Each person may have different privileges: some can use it once per day, some more than once, and some on certain days depending on their consequences.
What we didn’t know was, when the youth request to use the library in the hallway between the two buildings, what they refer to it as. They call it, “Narnia.”
Narnia. The perfect name for the Jacobson-Shiffler library.
About New Chapters Libraries
At New Chapters, our collective passion is to inspire a love of books among at-risk youth. We believe that strong reading skills are essential for every child and that a good book can be very therapeutic and offer a ‘vacation’ from the hardships of everyday life.
New Chapters is committed to making a wide variety of current and high-interest books readily available by creating and refurbishing libraries in residential facilities catering to at-risk children. We also conduct programs aimed at fostering a love of books and increasing reading skills.