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In 2018, high school libraries are all about knowledge and career readiness, not just books.

That’s the guiding principle behind the recent transformation of the St. Helena High School library into “The Hub,” where at any given time during the school day you might find students studying, writing their college admissions essays, investigating career paths, tutoring their peers, charging their phones, reading a book, or just hanging out.

“I wanted this to be less a place where students come in and get books and more a place where they come in to go out into the world through databases or research,” said library media specialist Susan Swan. “A place where they can find all the information they need.”

There are still lots of books, especially fiction, which students prefer to read in paper form, Swan said.

But some of the stacks, along with the old World War I artifacts (which were returned to their owners around the country), have been replaced with a 21st-century learning environment, with tables, chairs, movable whiteboards, computers where students can learn Adobe programs like Photoshop and InDesign or browse academic databases, and cell phone charging stations adorned with the Saints fleur-de-lis.

“We’re working with the same square footage, but we’ve made it a multi-use space,” said Principal Ben Scinto.

On one One one recent afternoon, UC Merced admissions advisor Timothy Ford was giving a presentation to a handful of students while an AVID class was hunched over laptops, a few others were working college applications, and one was sprawled out on a former table that’s been reupholstered and transformed into a pouf.

“It has the energy of a college campus,” said high school counselor Terri Linder. “It reminds me of a student union, with that relaxed, collaborative feel.”

Drinks, cell phones, and animated conversations are all welcome in The Hub, which is also adding a soundproof “SoundPound” for recording audio and video, complete with student-made tutorials on how to use the equipment.

The school also brings in people to talk about their careers – not just in local mainstays like wine and hospitality, but fashion, construction, medicine and the arts.

“We help students explore their options, and we never push just four-year college,” Linder said. “We know there are different paths to success. We just encourage planning for your career, whatever that looks like for you, so that when you finish in June of your graduating year, you have an idea of what you’re doing.”

It’s important to learn about careers in high school so that students don’t invest four or five years of college study toward a career they don’t like, Scinto said. The reduction in internship and job opportunities makes it even more crucial for high school students to think realistically about potential careers, he said.

“Kids don’t have as much luxury as they used to have to make bad career decisions,” Scinto said. “The decisions you make now in terms of your career are more defining than they were in the past. … So you don’t want to limit yourself too much and get stuck in a career you hate.”

The Hub is designed to help students ponder those decisions and think beyond today, Linder said.

“It’s all about planning for what’s next,” she said.

Follow The Hub on Instagram at shhs_h.u.b.

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St. Helena Reporter

Jesse has been a reporter for the St. Helena Star since 2006.