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New library hailed as a ‘repository of knowledge’

Centerpiece of new construction following roof collapse 

Godfrey-Lee — After several years of construction and renovation at Lee Middle and High School, the new library is open and ready to serve as a “window, mirror and sliding door” for students. 

District library media specialist Harry Coffill kicked off National Reading Month by hosting a “Festival Biblioteca” to inaugurate the new space in front of students, staff and state officials. 

“This vibrant space, pulsating with possibilities, stands not only as a repository of knowledge but also as a gateway to boundless imagination and discovery,” Coffill told the gathering. 

“Libraries are windows through which we glimpse the vast expanse of human experience and knowledge,” he said. “Libraries also serve as mirrors, reflecting our diverse community’s many identities and experiences.”  

Rep. John Fitzgerald, D-Wyoming, attended the event, telling students, “Every one of you can pick out a book here and find something you like, something you relate to in a character. Books about legends, people who left their mark just like you are all doing in this community.” 

‘I’ve never seen as many kids in the library as I do here. It’s comforting here and there is something for everyone.’  

— freshman student Arianna Wheeler

Fladiana Lopez, a representative from U.S. Rep. Hillary Scholten’s office and Lee High School alum, also was there to present a certificate of special congressional recognition.

The district broke ground on the two-year restoration and expansion project in April 2022, after the community voted in support of a $17.79 million bond in November 2020.

Over 100 years old, Lee experienced a structural failure in June 2019, causing part of the roof to collapse. 

“That Godfrey-Lee has chosen to put a library at the heart of their new construction is a great compliment to our students,” Coffill said. 
In addition to the school getting a brand new library, the space was completely refurnished thanks to a $150,000 grant from the Michigan Education Foundation. These funds also covered new furniture for the Godfrey-Lee Early Childhood Center and Godfrey Elementary libraries.


Student Provides Input on Design 

Standing near the large window that makes up an entire wall of the new library, freshman Arianna Wheeler, who served on the library design committee, said she is in awe of the finished space.

“I’ve been waiting for it and I was shell shocked when I saw the library finished and furnished,” she said. “I’ve been a reader my entire life and being in the library, I find myself even more immersed in stories.” 

Arianna said she met with Coffill once a week since the new library began to take shape last year and offered her ideas.

“I suggested adding more wall outlets because students always need to charge their phones, and high-top tables and lower spaces for students to do their homework,” she said. 

If students have new book suggestions for the library, Arianna said Coffill is always open to hearing from them. 

“We’ve been filling (the library) with more books students want,” she said. “We can come to Mr. Coffill with suggestions and he wants us to have things we want to read.” 

In his speech at the event, Coffill said, “Every reader deserves to see themselves reflected as a hero in a book, finding validation, affirmation and a sense of belonging.” 

Since the library opened to students last month, Arianna said she has witnessed her peers finishing homework so they can come to the library and work a puzzle. 

“There is always a puzzle out on a table for students to work on,” she said. “I’ve never seen as many kids in the library as I do here. It’s comforting here and there is something for everyone.”

Read more from Godfrey Lee: 
This librarian’s mission: helping students find ‘the voice they need at that moment’
Construction continues transforming middle and high school

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Alexis Stark
Alexis Stark
Alexis Stark is a reporter covering Byron Center, Caledonia, Godfrey-Lee, Kenowa Hills and Thornapple Kellogg. She grew up in metro Detroit and her journalism journey brought her west to Grand Rapids via Michigan State University where she covered features and campus news for The State News. She also co-authored three 100-question guides to increase understanding and awareness of various human identities, through the MSU School of Journalism. Following graduation, she worked as a beat reporter for The Ann Arbor News, covering stories on education, community, prison arts and poetry, before finding her calling in education reporting and landing at SNN. Alexis is also the author of a poetry chapbook, “Learning to Sleep in the Middle of the Bed.”


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