It was lunchtime Thursday at Thurston Middle School, and a comfortable hum of conversation filled the campus's newly renovated library.
Students grabbed seats at tables or inside alcoves with partitions shaped as semicircles. One girl listened to a friend rehearse a presentation on the Boston Massacre for a social studies class. A boy, with an open laptop nearby, wrote notes on a piece of paper.
The scene dispelled notions of libraries as places of silence where one hesitated to make a peep, or move a chair, for fear of getting nasty looks from neighbors.
Crews spent the summer transforming the space into an area where students have options. They can work together on a group project, or study by themselves for an upcoming exam.
Principal Jenny Salberg said she was inspired by the Laguna Beach High School library renovation in 2015 and wanted to give a similar experience to Thurston students.
"We felt like we needed space that matched the classrooms," Salberg said.
As such, crews replaced fixed book cabinets with movable ones, installed new carpet, and added multiple items including an interactive whiteboard system, LCD monitors and chairs and desks that can can be relocated throughout the room, allowing students to work together.
The old library contained tables and desktop computers, which allowed students to use the space as a lab. Since students either bring their own computer or tablet, or check out a Chromebook at school, the tables and computers were no longer needed, district Chief Technology Officer Mike Morrison said.
"When you are trying to form groups in the library that are working on various projects together there was very little room to do this effectively with the permanent book shelves and permanent lab," Morrison said. "Now we can facilitate larger groups with breakouts."
Teachers can request to use the library for a lesson, or students can study during lunch or breaks.
Sarah Schaeffer, a sixth-grade English teacher, brought her students to the library for a lesson on sentence structure prior to lunch on Thursday.
Schaeffer's class experimented with an interactive whiteboard that allows students, with the touch of a finger, to drag notes to different places on the board.
The Nureva system, which incorporates infrared and cloud-based technology, allows a teacher or student to project text from his or her computer onto the board. Notes resemble paper sticky notes taped to a wall.
Schaeffer created three different categories: simple sentences, complex sentences and compound sentences.
Students took turns dragging sentences into their proper categories, receiving tips from classmates if they didn't know the answer right away.
"At this point, we're getting kids used to it," Schaeffer said. "We'll continue to use it for prewriting.
"The best part is having students collaborate on different ideas."
The district paid $13,000 for the Nureva system at Thurston, Morrison said, adding that Laguna Beach High School journalism students also use the technology in their class, which cost about $5,000. Thurston's system incorporated two projectors, he said.
Earlier in the period students, working with their laptops, typed responses to Schaeffer's questions such as, "What can be used to join two independent clauses?"
Their answers, without names attached, appeared on one of the library's LCD monitors.
"The screens are very helpful," Quinn Butler, 12, said. "From anywhere you sit, you can see the boards and interact with them."
Guests at SchoolPower's annual Dinner Dance earlier this year contributed $120,000 toward the library's $185,000 cost. SchoolPower is a nonprofit that raises money for Laguna Beach Unified School District's four campuses.
Gauging by the 50 or so students inside the library during lunch Thursday, the space has become a destination point.
Brooklyn Bryan, 13, who listened to a friend practice her presentation, said she likes the new layout.
"It's less cluttered and a lot more open," Brooklyn said.