Lively Library Lunches

THE COOKIE WAS BETTER:  Students recreated book covers designs. They then voted for their sweet creations. photos by Lili Xiong.

THE COOKIE WAS BETTER: Students recreated book covers designs. They then voted for their sweet creations. photos by Lili Xiong.

Wintyr Rice, Staffer

Students can walk into the library and be greeted by a plethora of comfy chairs, bright puzzles, stacks of board games, and a fully-stocked craft station, in addition to the library’s many books. In the library, students of every grade level are seen working on assignments, adding to puzzles, and talking with friends.

The LASA library hosts numerous lunchtime events from weekly arts and crafts projects –called artful lunches– and lectures to puzzles and board games. There are also special one-off events, like the cookie decorating contest and the Halloween fashion show. The events are organized by librarian Elizabeth Switek. Most recently, the library hosted a tea lounge, held a potato stamp craft session and started a reading marathon which ends on Jan. 23. According to Switek, the lunches in the library started during the pandemic year due to the low on-campus student population.

“In a normal year, you would be going to your clubs, you would be having activities, you’d be in sports, and you’d all hang out in this locker area having lunch, or you’d go to the costuming club,” Switek said. “We don’t have that now because it’s a pandemic. It was really sad and pathetic.”

Even before the pandemic, Switek was thinking about how to improve students’ experiences in the library. She started including more programming – or activities – to do in the library.

“They had had several librarians before me who basically sat and did nothing,” Switek said. “Which is sad, because a library can be so much more.”

Switek models her activities after those of bigger libraries. She often gets ideas from Austin Public Library, San Antonio Public Library’s teen section, and Pinterest.

“If you’ve been to a public library in the last five or ten years,” Switek said. “you know that they’re very active, really engaging the community, trying to get the community to come in for any reason–a seed exchange, or a band concert, or whatever.”

At LASA, the library is the only place in the school that is visited by every student, other than the cafeteria. This is a fact Switek is well aware of. 

 “The library serves everybody,” Switek said. “and so it needs to be warm and needs to be engaging.”

Naina Jacobs is a LASA junior who often eats lunch in the library. She likes attending the artful lunches and enjoys the atmosphere that surrounds them.

“They’re a really great break from school time and just a great relaxing activity to do,” Jacobs said. “I really feel like it’s fun.”

Another student who frequents the artful lunches is junior Rosie Ramirez. Ramirez has been participating in artful lunches since last school year.

“A lot of people started joining together, and it’s just something fun to do with all of your friends,” Ramirez said. “I think it’s just a really nice space to be in.”

Switek hopes to continue the library events into the future. She also wants to expand and have more club involvement in the library.

“What I would like to do is build more engagement with the clubs,” Switek said. “It’s a place that they can use for lectures or activities that they’re doing.”

Junior Zianya Martinez is a long-time attendee of artful lunches. She says there are a few past activities that she’d like to see again in the future.

“Probably the bracelet making again,” Martinez said. “We only did it in the beginning of the year and then after that, it was just gone.”

Jacobs enjoys the crafts at the artful lunches and does not have many worries about their future. Jacobs appreciates the hard work Switek puts into making a space for people to be creative together.

“Honestly, the ideas that Ms. Switek has been coming up with have been really good,” Jacobs said.

Switek also designs holiday-themed crafts for students. Martinez remembers some of the lunches the library hosted before winter break last year.

“They always have fun activities, like for holidays and stuff.” Martinez said. “Before Christmas break, they gave us little arts and crafts with instructions and multiple activities we could do, and that was really fun to do over the break.”

Jacobs said that she likes artful lunches that involve crafts that you can bring home. Although, she does also like the crafts that you can eat.

“I liked the cookie decorating one, but I wish I could eat that cookie,” Jacobs said. “There was just a lot of frosting that was being touched by everyone.”

The library also hosts presentations and lectures outside of the artful lunches to connect students to opportunities they may not be aware of otherwise. Ramirez attended one that was by the Architecture Construction and Engineering (ACE) program—a membership program for students interested in engineering.

“We went to one recently that was ACE.” Ramirez said. “It was talking about architecture and construction.”

Switek hopes to continue expanding library lunches as a bonding experience for years to come. She said that they’re a good way to give students some much-needed downtime between classes. 

“They’ve got an hour [for lunch],” Switek said, “and if they can get out of their head, and can relax, and if they can do something fun and engaging, then I’m going to offer it.”