When I stopped by the new Central High School to pick up a copy of the Centennial book, I couldn’t believe I was in a high school library. It felt more like a coffee shop than Mrs. Wilcox’s study hall that served as my freshman homeroom.
The first thing you see when you walk into the library is a small lobby with a catalpa and sycamore sculpture by art instructor Robert C. Friedrich III. The work, “Mind, Body & Soul,” was commissioned by librarian Julia Howes Jorgensen “To Honor Her Family’s Three Generations of Central Graduates.”
She said that the “experts” would consider the small alcove wasted space, but she thinks it’s important to have a place where students can scrape off teenage angst and “decompress” before entering the library. “You remember all the drama, with the cat fights between boyfriends and girlfriends…”
Bright, airy, inviting
Julia said she was given extraordinary latitude in designing the space. She figured it was because she was “Old Cape;” a Class of 1969 graduate “along with Rush Limbaugh” (and, Koran-burner Terry Jones, I added), and had been librarian since 1985. “I live here. I know Cape and our students. I’ve taught here. I knew what we needed.”
It is clearly a non-shushing library. There’s enough space that students can collaborate on projects or talk quietly without interfering with their neighbors. The facility is open from 7 a.m. to 3:30. Julia says students are frequently waiting for her to swing the doors open in the morning.
Craig Thomas murals and art
She brought in local artist Craig Thomas to do paintings and murals. It was a great learning experience for the art students to see him set up his scaffolding and create his work. He was able to communicate to them that “it’s great work, but you really need a spouse with life insurance, too.”
The fireman’s pole in the corner of the room came from the Pacific campus.
The Bookend raises money for books
The coffee shop feeling is enhanced by The Bookend, a self-serve, honor system counter where students can buy popcorn, hot chocolate or cappuccino for 50 cents. The money goes to buy “extra” books. “The district buys the first copy of a book, but I use the proceeds from The Bookend to purchase the second, third or fourth copy of books that are ‘hot.'”
She also tries to stock bestsellers, when appropriate, so that students and faculty members have an opportunity to read a book by an author they saw on a late-night talk show .
Julia is an expert at scrounging useful items. Some of the tables in the library came from a Barnes & Noble bookstore that was moving. They were destined for the dumpster when she stepped up to take them.
Links to the past
She’s also rescued key items from the Pacific Street and Caruthers high schools. This artwork and books came from “our” Central. There are patriotic posters and a room directory taken from what is now Schultz Senior Apartments.
There’s a whole shelf of Girardot yearbooks. “That’s how you can tell I’m not a real librarian,” she said, “because I make them available to the students. It’s their school. If they want to look up what grandpa or an aunt or an uncle looked like, they shouldn’t have to beg my permission. They’re always available.”
Students can look into library
There are small windows set high in the room that allow students in the second-floor classrooms around it to look down into the library.
Her father’s uniform
One of the items on display is Julia’s dad’s uniform from World War II. When students remark about how small he was, she tells them that “when you walk the length of Italy, you get that way.”
Cape Central High through the years
If you want to see how the high school and the students have changed – and remained much the same – over the past 100 years, you can order the Cape Central High School Centennial book from a link on this page. Or, you can stop by to see Julia and her showcase library. That, alone, is worth the $50 book price.
Photos of Central’s library in the ’60s
Photo gallery of new library
Here are additional photos of the new library. Click on any image to make it larger, then click on the left or right side to move through the gallery.