Franco Lezama, 11, a student at Butler Magnet School in Pasadena, tries out a virtual reality headset at the reopening of his school’s library. Community groups including the College Football Playoff Association, the Tournament of Roses and the Pasadena Educational Foundation made the May 9, 2023 renovations possible. (Photo by Anissa Rivera)
PASEDENA – The renovated room in the library and school that bears her name would not be remotely familiar to writer Octavia Butler. But librarian Natalie Daily thinks she’d be fine with that.
“Octavia Butler was famous for her love of libraries,” Daily said. “She used them to go her own literary way. This space would not resemble what she would have seen then, but students can now relax in a safe place and find books that reflect their own experiences and characters that resemble them.”
The renovated libraries at the Octavia E. Butler Magnet School in Pasadena and the Eliot Arts Magnet Academy in Altadena were unveiled Monday and Tuesday, attended by school officials and representatives of the community groups that made this possible.
Students at the Octavia E. Butler Magnet School perform for school officials and other guests at the unveiling of their renovated library. The library at the Eliot Arts Magnet School in Altadena was also renovated on May 9, 2023. (Photo by Anissa Rivera)
According to Michelle Richardson-Bailey, president of the Pasadena Unified School District Board of Education, the remodels were done courtesy of the College Football Playoff Foundation with support from the Tournament of Roses and the Pasadena Educational Foundation.
The total amount donated (for the two schools) is approximately $105,000 from the three foundations.
“The upgraded media centers will improve the learning experience for students for years to come,” said Pasadena Unified School District Superintendent Brian McDonald.
The remodeled space at the Butler features new blue and gold chairs, corrugated light-colored bookshelves, matching desks with left-handed tabletops, and a special virtual reality corner added by the College Football Playoff Foundation, worth $25,000.
Patrick Conyers, executive director of the Pasadena Educational Foundation, said they matched that donation so Eliot Arts could also get a high-tech bonus.
The old library, which occupies a high-ceilinged room in the 99-year-old school, was last renovated in the 1980s. Teachers and students agreed that the long wooden tables and chairs were not particularly comfortable.
Librarian Daily said she’s grateful for more shelving and a revamped floor plan that puts her circulation desk at the heart of what’s happening.
“We have so much flexibility, the furniture is mobile enough to move around for different purposes,” she said.
Mia Ortega, 12, left, plays Connect Four with her sixth grader Matthew Martinez at the grand opening of the renovated library at the Octavia E. Butler Magnet School in Pasadena Monday. (Photo by Anissa Rivera)
Teachers, staff and parents will also use the space for meetings. There are tables for playing board games and charging Chromebooks, as well as a craft corner.
Ed Morales, Executive Vice President of the Tournament of Roses, said the two projects highlight creative collaboration between partners to address a community’s most pressing issues.
14-year-old eighth grader Shayla Starr from Pasadena saw the renovation from the start.
“I didn’t think a room full of cardboard boxes full of books would turn into something like this,” she said.
Sofia Lopez, 12, from Pasadena gave the makeover a thumbs up.
“I like to come here to relax, read graphic novels or meet my friends,” she said.
Tina Fredericks, school board member and parent of a Butler seventh grader, said the redesigned space was a far cry from the Dewey Decimal System and microfiche days of her childhood libraries.
“I love this school and how we are part of history and how we honor one of us,” she said. “I’m so proud to be a part of it. But I also love how modern and natural this new space looks and feels.”
Principal Noemi Orduna said the space is a hub for activities, including daily lunches and meetings.
“It makes a difference in the experiences of our students and teachers. They don’t know what that means for us,” she said.