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Elementary school library gets an IKEA makeover in Costa Mesa

The library at Paularino Elementary School in Costa Mesa was anything but quiet the past few weeks as volunteers completed a full remodel, courtesy of the city’s IKEA furniture store.

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After a celebratory flag ceremony and ribbon cutting Friday morning, Paularino students were brought in one class at a time to tour the new-look library.

“It’s beautiful!” one student called out.

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“I want to live here!” yelled another.

The renovation, featuring $9,000 worth of products, includes new bookcases, couches, tables, chairs, rugs and a desk station for Paularino’s library media tech, Lavinia Maki.

“It feels so open,” Maki said, surveying the room. She described the library before the revamp as clustered and ill-assorted. “Now the kids can fill the space in here.”

Rows of IKEA’s woodgrain bookshelves help create uniformity, while convertible couches and extendable tables provide versatility.

Many of the bookcases that were replaced were IKEA donations as well, said Vanessa Flores, an IKEA communications and events specialist. Shortly after the Costa Mesa store opened in May 2003, it gave bookcases to Paularino as a thank-you to the city.

“We just celebrated our 15th anniversary, so it was kind of a good, pivotal time to circle back with Paularino,” Flores said.

The renovation consisted of three months of planning and two days of remodeling by 10 to 15 IKEA workers.

“The co-workers fight over who gets to come do these because it really is fun to work with the kids and to see how appreciated it is and that it’s impacting their every day,” IKEA store manager Laurie Helm said.

To show its appreciation, the school crafted a large banner signed by students that read “Thank you, IKEA — we [love] our library.” Helm said her staff is discussing where to display the banner in the store.

IKEA reconnected with Paularino through the Costa Mesa Chamber of Commerce, which presented the school with a plaque to honor the revamped library Friday. In addition to the IKEA crew, volunteers, parents and other community members helped in the remodel by boxing up books and reorganizing classrooms that got the library’s former furniture.

“We repurposed everything that was in our library, so our classrooms benefited from that,” Paularino Principal Amy Nagy said. “So this had an effect not only on our library but on our entire school.”

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