Winston Library: Bolstering Learning and Feeding Curiosity for 20 Years

Winston Library: Bolstering Learning and Feeding Curiosity for 20 Years
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Stacy Calfo

The library, dedicated in 2001 in honor of Charles and Florence Winston, remains “the focal point of an ongoing invitation to explore the world near and far.”

When Winston Library opened its doors in 2001, it was lauded as a place where Lower School students could read, research and reflect. Head of School Doreen Kelly, who was then Director of Lower School, said she remembers “with great clarity” the excitement and anticipation among the community.

Above, Winston librarian Emily Zeblo reads to Mercy Irvine’s PreK class.

Winston librarians Jessica Ortolano and Emily Zeblo check in with PreK student Abby Mitchell.

“It was an amazing day full of celebration and hope as the Winston Library became the focal point of an ongoing invitation to explore the world near and far through books,” she said.

In the 20 years since, Winston Library has served the students and faculty of Ravenscroft exceptionally well, adapting to the rapid evolution of digital media and growing into a hub of creativity and collaboration. It remains a place where students can ask questions, seek answers together and nurture a deep and boundless curiosity — a fitting tribute to the late Tucker Street-era alumnus Charles Winston Sr. ’47 and his wife, Florence, the devoted Ravenscroft parents and grandparents for whom the building is named.

In this photo from the 2001 Corvus, honorees Charles (’47) and Florence Winston join their son Bob ’80 and his wife, Tracy, at the library’s dedication.

“A community space”

The library, nestled near the main entrance of the Lower School, was built as part of an ambitious four-year campaign that also gave the school Murphy Hall Upper School, the Library and Technology Center (now the Keim Center for Innovation and Research) and the Jones Health Center — all part of a 25-year campus master plan crafted to modernize the campus.

In recent years, thoughtful updates to the space within the building have helped staff meet the changing needs of Ravenscroft’s youngest learners. More open floor space, fun and flexible furniture, and lightweight, portable laptops give students the option to spread out comfortably and collaborate. (There’s even a Lego wall to jump-start creativity!) But the transition is more than physical.

Above, nestled near the main entrance of the Lower School, Winston Library has been a favorite spot for young Ravens for 20 years. Below, a thoughtful update in 2017 reoriented the circulation desk, opened up floor space and brought in modular seating to encourage students to spread out and collaborate.

“The library and the program is so different than what it was 20 years ago,” Lower School librarian Jessica Ortolano explained. “It’s no longer a space just for books. It’s about collaborative teaching and makerspaces.”

“It’s even more of a community space,” fellow Lower School librarian Emily Zeblo added. “We have flex classes so we can see some grade levels more frequently. In the past, teachers might drop off students and leave. Now they interact with the program itself. It’s a co-teaching opportunity to help our students become citizen leaders.”

Lower School Curriculum and Instruction Specialist Ruth Thomas agreed on the significance of this evolution.

“With the implementation of a flexible schedule and the ongoing curricular-planning partnership of the librarians with classroom teachers, our Winston Library has become an organic and authentic hub of learning,” she said. “Every book and every learning tool is accessible to each and every student. Diverse and inclusive books fill the shelves. Every day there is something new to explore. 

“Winston Library allows each young Raven to soar!”

Ortolano helps PreK student Henry Prugh find books to check out.

“The mission will last forever”

But Winston Library’s impact extends beyond the boundaries of the Lower School. Some Middle and Upper School students, whose love for reading and inquiry was nurtured there, still visit the space to work on research projects. And during the period of remote learning necessitated by the pandemic, Zeblo, Ortolano and their colleagues in the Library and Technology Services Department were a vital resource for both teachers and families.

“A lot of what our libraries do is connect faculty and students to information, so it was a natural progression for us to step into this hybrid space. We employed a variety of innovative approaches that would continue to foster student engagement as well as provide access to books and resources,” Angela Finn, Director of Library Services, said. “We were determined to keep students feeling seen and reading when they could not be in our spaces. By providing technology support and collaborating more deeply with colleagues, we were able to foster human connections even during such a difficult time.”

That’s just how the staff of Winston Library want it.

In these photos from 2017, Lower School students enjoy the many resources and activities offered in Winston Library.

“When I was in graduate school [in library science], a teacher asked our class about our own early experiences in a school library. All of us had similar experiences: it was restricted, and younger students couldn’t check out a book unless it was from a specific section,” Zeblo said. “I want every child who comes into this space to experience the opposite of that. This should be a place they can come and get questions answered, explore on their own and feel freedom.”

“Winston Library is more than a physical space. Its impact on our students goes well beyond these four walls,” Ortolano concluded. “While the gift from Bob (’80) and Tracy Winston helped build the building, the mission their generosity made possible will last forever.”

For the Winston family, such growth and joy is at the heart of their philanthropy.

“Giving to something that impacts young children in such a positive way benefits the giver as well,” Bob Winston said. “We are blessed to have the opportunity to be involved with such a great institution.”

Natalie Liddle and Jane Dill, students in Mercy Irvine’s PreK class, explore the library’s collection of Fiddlesticks, which help build spatial awareness, problem-solving and critical thinking skills. 


Why do YOU love Winston Library?

We asked students, parents and teachers what makes Winston Library such a special place for the Lower School community. Here’s what they had to say!

Then-Lower School librarian Barbara Buescher and media aide Evelyn Stevens display books in this photo from the 2002 Corvus, captioned “There is never a dull moment in the new library.”

Students enjoy an activity in Winston Library’s reading terrace — a favorite spot for storytime — in this photo from the 2007 Corvus. 

Why do YOU love Winston Library?

We asked students, parents and teachers what makes Winston Library such a special place for the Lower School community. See what they have to say in this video!