CARLISLE — Shari Rafferty was ready to turn the page on the LeTort Elementary School library. She thought the room really needed a face-lift.
“It was dark ... not very inviting,” the librarian said. “It didn’t seem elementary-orientated. It looked more like old school.”
For more than a year, Rafferty worked within a space that lacked bright colors and friendly cheer to greet the students as they came through the door. The school library had a partition wall that stopped short of reaching the ceiling and sectioned off square footage for a closet.
But that all changed after a summer project remodeled the library into a welcoming space — thanks to the teamwork of the school staff and community members.
LeTort PTO President Megan Kretzing said the original idea was to spruce up the library with a new rug and updated furniture. The options were limited by the scarcity of money from the fall 2013 fundraiser.
During the 2013-14 school year, the LeTort PTO submitted an application to Lowe’s for a grant under the company’s Toolbox for Education program to help schools improve spaces for literacy, said Aaron Carmichael, LeTort’s principal.
After receiving word last April that the school would be getting a $4,000 grant, PTO leaders reached out to Lisa O’Brien, a former kindergarten instructional aide at LeTort who owns an interior design company in Carlisle.
“She helped us get the ball rolling,” Carmichael said. “She spearheaded the operation when it came to communicating with the different organizations.”
O’Brien donated her time and expertise to help coordinate and plan the project with PTO members and school staff. She picked the colors and design that went into the room, solicited support from the community and kept track of progress.
The project began in mid-June, when district maintenance staff removed the partition wall, opening up a small amount of floor space. The school later used this extra room to reconfigure the library to allow for a checkout desk and an open area where students can sit on the floor to read or listen to lessons.
Mark and Joel Buchanan donated their time to redo the walls and book shelves using paint donated by PPG, Carmichael said. He said local artists, Tammi Funk, of Green T Design, and Rebekah Jenkins, from Innovative Design Style, painted a border of swirls and circles along the top portion of the wall. Rich Cudahy, of Budget Blinds, provided new blinds that were painted to match the décor.
Other improvements include new shelving, updated technology and new carpeting. Carlisle Area School District matched the $4,000 donation from Lowe’s into a pool of money used to purchase the checkout desk and student tables and chairs, Carmichael said.
“The community coming together allowed us to improve this space,” he said.
Rafferty and her family chipped in on the project, as well. Her son and husband made some of the book shelves and removed the collection so volunteers could paint the old shelves. Once the work was complete, they helped to unpack and restock books.
While the majority of the work was done by the start of school, there were some minor items to complete up until late November, Carmichael said. Rafferty was in the library when students saw the new look for the first time.
“Just seeing their faces was so rewarding to me,” she recalled. “It was so much better. They were so excited to be there.”
There has been a 35 percent increase in the number of books checked out by students since the library underwent its face-lift, Rafferty said.
“That shows me they want to be in there,” she said. “They are more enthusiastic. They feel it is a more welcoming place.”
She added the students have commented that even the books look more colorful in the bright white shelves.
“They respect the space and take care of it,” Rafferty said of the students. “They know the project was all for them.”