Circulation is up more than 100 percent from 2009 at Marsh Middle School, says librarian Mary Virginia Meeks, and the spanking new Tech Cafe has something to do with it.

Last May, I reported how the Marsh library is thriving despite budget cuts, garnering private donations to help fund much-needed updates. Meeks told me then that, with enough donations, she planned to launch a cafe where students could hang out, read and drink cocoa.

That vision is now reality, and the school will dedicate the Tech Cafe at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday in the newly renovated Russell Hughes Library, honoring the individuals who made it all possible.

“When people come in here in the morning, they’re blown away,” Meeks says.

Former principal Kyle Richardson (now serving at Woodrow Wilson) was a driving force behind the library updates, helping secure resources and funding from the district.

“He really gave this library wings last year. He’s the one who stood behind. Without him, there would be no Tech Cafe.”

The library is complete with a new counter top and stools, 50 laptops, a cocoa machine and comfy arm chairs. The Marsh community is reinventing the library as a place where people don’t have to be so quiet all the time.

“We’re taking some tips from coffee shops,” Meeks says. “Those have been the backbone of our country where people talk about ideas and philosophy. I want the kids to feel like they could walk into a Starbucks or a university center and meet people and feel comfortable.”

With more than 70 percent of the student body living at the poverty level, most of the kids don’t have internet at home and don’t typically go to coffee shops. About 240 students a day visit the Marsh library.

Meeks says Marsh is not the only campus with staff members taking improvements into their own hands.

“It’s not as recognized as it should be, but these library programs are amazing. Each campus has its own grassroots support. [For us] this is all about giving the library back to the students.”

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