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Donation leads to thoroughly modern media center at Willmar Senior High School

Erica Dischino / Tribune Students work in the Elaine Adams Lounge, a part of the media center at Willmar Senior High School. Adams taught math in area schools, and the Elaine Adams Donor Advised Fund supported the lounge project and a broader update of the entire media center.1 / 7
Erica Dischino / Tribune The Willmar Senior High School media center has many new features, including new chairs for the computer stations. 2 / 7
Adams (the late Elaine Adams)3 / 7
Erica Dischino / Tribune Tyler Gehrking, the technology coordinator for Willmar Senior High School, shows one of the outlets available for charging devices. The new tables in the media center also act as whiteboards, allowing students and teachers to write directly on the surface.4 / 7
Erica Dischino / Tribune Willmar senior Jake Evans, 18, works on an iPad during his independent study period at the media center in Willmar Senior High School. When the district added iPads, the media center became a "ghost town," but more students have been using the space since the center’s renovations.5 / 7
Erica Dischino / Tribune Desks that can be arranged for both collaborative and individual work are one of the many new features in the media center at Willmar Senior High School. A $225,000 update of the entire center was supported by the Elaine Adams Donor Advised Fund. Adams taught math in area schools for more than 50 years.6 / 7
Erica Dischino / Tribune The lobby of the media center at Willmar Senior High School features new padded seating and new tile flooring – students may bring snacks and drinks in the tiled area.7 / 7

WILLMAR — The days when librarians shushed students if they made too much noise are long gone in the remodeled media center at Willmar Senior High School.

"We want this to be a place where people are talking and collaborating," said Tyler Gehrking, the school's technology coordinator. "Our goal was to build a place that fosters innovation."

The Elaine Adams Donor Advised Fund at the Willmar Area Community Foundation supported the project. Adams taught math in area schools for more than 50 years.

A plan to revamp a lounge area behind the circulation desk grew into a $225,000 update of the entire center with the urging of Adams' family, Gehrking said. After a relative toured the new center recently, she urged him to contact the fund if anything else was needed.

The room has new flooring — tile near the entrance and carpeting throughout the rest. It's still a library with many books, though maybe not quite as many as in the past.

The lobby area, formerly filled with computers on tables, now has padded seating in gray, white and black, with deep red accents. Students may bring snacks and drinks into that area, which has tiled floors. No food or drinks are allowed in carpeted areas.

"The original intent was to connect students to technology," Gehrking said. "Now, it's pervasive." The high school provides every student with an iPad, and the media center computers were not used as much as in the past.

The lounge area that spurred the project has a similar color scheme. Students often gather there to relax and visit. It's now called the Elaine Adams Lounge.

Ports for charging devices are available throughout the tech-friendly media center.

Tables the height of standing desks with whiteboard surfaces are popular with students, Gehrking said. The tables have swing-out stools for those who want to sit.

Standard-height tables have white boards hanging from clips at their sides.

Casters allow much of the furniture to be moved to accommodate study groups or individual study.

The media center has a design lab: rows of desks with high-end computers for use by technology and engineering classes. The school's drone class meets there.

Gehrking worked with library paraprofessionals Dawn Hulscher and Sheila Johannes in developing the new design. They worked on color schemes and researched different types of furniture.

The remodeling has created a new atmosphere. After students were provided iPads several years ago, "this was a ghost town," Hulscher said.

"Now, it's their favorite place to be," Johannes said.

Now, there are times when the center is packed with kids, they said.

Gehrking said he still wants to do some smaller projects in the media center. A back room will be turned into a recording studio for students making videos for their classes. Another side room is to become an innovation room with 3D printers and other equipment to give kids "practical technology skills."

Elaine Adams

Adams founded her donor-advised fund in 2009. After her death in 2014 at the age of 98, her extended family took over management of the fund.

Adams taught math in Kerkhoven, Clara City and mostly Willmar schools for longer than 50 years. She was known for her philanthropy and her interest in seeing local women become philanthropists.

Adams made one of the first donations to the Willmar Women's Fund and left gifts to more than 20 organizations in her estate. She was a supporter of the Willmar High School, Ridgewater College, St. Scholastica College in Duluth, Willmar Women's Fund, Willmar Community Foundation and numerous other charities.

Linda Vanderwerf

I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.

Follow me on Twitter: @lindavanderwerf

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