Walk through the doors of the T.C. Williams High School library in Alexandria, Va., at lunchtime, and it buzzes like a busy coffee shop. Groups of students gather around tables chatting. Some sit with laptops or phones, crunching on salads, thin crust pizza or other offerings from the school’s cafeteria. A group of teens gathers around the librarian for a book talk, and at a counter along the back wall, pairs of students blow off steam playing games like Connect Four.
“We’re not a quiet, shushing kind of library,” says librarian Beth Ebenstein Mulch. “There are rules — the students don’t get out of hand — but this is a gathering spot. They feel safe here.”
To Mulch and fellow librarian Corina Haywood, getting kids to gather in the library is a critical step in encouraging readers. First you get them through the doors, and then you expose them to the world of books.