Harbor Day School in Newport Beach was built with a library at its center.
Students filter through it all day, and librarian-taught classes rotate in. The lessons often include activities such as kids feeding their "bookworm" earth worms or using quill pens to write their names like the signers of the Constitution.
"The library is really an integral part of the whole school," said Harbor Day's first librarian, Anne Polkingharn. "It's not just a room with books and computers now too."
FOR THE RECORD:
An earlier version of this story misspelled Anne Polkingharn's last name.
In its six decades of existence, the small K-8 private institution has had just two librarians, and they happen to be good friends, current librarian Molly Mailloux said.
Saturday, they both joined in a celebration of the school's 60th anniversary where students, parents and teachers past and present honored now-deceased former headmaster John Marder.
The school formed as St. James Parish Day School in 1952 but moved to its current home on Pacific View Drive in 1973, a vision guided by Marder, Polkingharn said.
He hired her in the late 1960s with a plan to make the library the center of the new building, she said.
They met with architects to give the central location an open feel with a ski-lodge styling, including a fireplace, in the hope of encouraging students to spend time there.
"He recognized really that reading was the heart of success in school," Polkingharn said.
She was there for the building's groundbreaking in 1972 and described the scene Saturday.
"Anne told the best story," Mailloux said. "The day that they broke ground, every kid brought to school a shovel. How cool is that? This is your school, dig your shovel in there."
Almost 30 years later, Mailloux took the librarian mantle from Polkingharn.
As a fifth-grade teacher at Harbor Day, she realized the best part of her day was in the library, where students looked forward to Polkingharn's latest lesson.
After graduating from Cal State Long Beach's librarian program and receiving some mentoring from her predecessor, Mailloux took over the librarian post 14 years ago.
She's picked up where Polkingharn left off, working with teachers to develop their curriculum and hosting classes with interactive lessons like building a cardboard luge to illustrate the Winter Olympics.
Mailloux said that during her tenure, the library has remained the heart of the school, and she doesn't see that changing soon.
"It was a success because the headmaster had a dream," she said. "It all begins with books, and it ends with books."