There was visible awe and excitement on the faces of Palo Alto High School students as they flooded into their brand-new library for the first time on Wednesday.
Some pulled out their smartphones to take pictures and video, while several students immediately claimed spaced in a silent study room to work on laptops.
"I'm going to spend all my time here now," one student exclaimed.
After a year and a half without a fully fledged library, Paly has a brand new space that Principal Adam Paulson said he hopes will "be an inspiring space for generations to come."
"This building is for you," he told students gathered for a ribbon-cutting during lunch on Wednesday. "It was designed for you. It was built for you."
As such, the brief ribbon-cutting featured no outside speakers, district officials or parents and got right to the point: letting students explore their newest campus space.
The new library is larger, with more natural light, higher ceilings and a black spiral staircase winding up to a mezzanine that houses the school's 125-year-old archives, including decades of Paly yearbooks. The library houses the same number of books, about 13,000, but can now accommodate about 250 people, up from 175 in the previous library, said librarian Rachel Kellerman.
There are numerous spaces for students to read and work, from differently configured seating areas and reading nooks to quiet, silent and group study rooms. There's also an instructional space, which the old library didn't have. Students also have access to several computers and printers in the library.
The silent study room evokes a collegiate feel, with four tables and softer lighting. Purposeful decisions were made about design, lighting and furniture throughout the library, Kellerman said. (The furniture comes from the same company that the city of Palo Alto used for the Mitchell Park Library.)
"More than number of seats, the number of ways kids can work is different," Kellerman said. "It's very exciting."
The building is also LEED-certified, she noted. Lights in rooms automatically turn off if they're not in use and overhead lights in the main space will dim during the day as natural light pours in from large windows facing the school's quad.
The library renovation was funded through the $378 million Strong Schools Bond passed by voters in 2008. It's one of the last major facilities projects at Paly from that bond, following the construction of a new performing arts center, media arts center, athletic center and classroom buildings.
In the same building as the library are new offices for guidance, college and career counseling and a student activities center, which have yet to open.
Paly senior Tess Manjarrez was the first student to check out a book in the new library on Wednesday. She came in for Michelle Obama's "Becoming" but left with "A Blade So Black," an Alice in Wonderland fantasy novel with a black teenage heroine.
Before the renovation, the library was where she spent much of her time at Paly. It was difficult being without that space for most of her junior year, she said.
"Having such a beautiful space to enjoy and feel comfortable in among a bunch of books and quiet rooms that you can study in is really kind of a relief," Manjarrez said. "It's somewhere I know I can feel really comfortable and I'm really excited to have the space."
Paly will host a public open house at the library as part of a yearlong centennial celebration on March 23 from noon to 2 p.m. For more information, go to paly.net.