Biondo Research Center will give students new hub for academic success

Director of Communications
Pope John XXIII Regional High School

SPARTA — When students think of a library, they still have this image that there are tons of old books stacked upon numerous shelves and a grumpy old lady who is there to just find the book they need.

For students at Pope John XXIII Regional High School and Pope John XXIII Middle School, that image will be long gone after they enter the newly renovated Biondo Research Center when the school year begins in late August.

“That is going to be like Grand Central Station,” Pope John High School’s Supervisor of Academic Instruction Mr. Vohden said. “You will have kids here start using it at 7 a.m. and it will be hopping until 5 at night. The kids are really going to appreciate this.”

“It’s going to be wonderful,” Pope John President and Principal Father McHugh said.

The Biondo Research Center is a 5,000 square foot area that occupies the space where the high school’s old library used to be. It will offer students a strong foundation in traditional, technological and integrated research skills that will prepare them for the challenges of the globalized world.

The thought of turning the library into this state-of-the-art center came up about a year and a half ago when Mr. Vohden, Father McHugh, Mrs. Porter and other school administrators realized that students were hardly using the library’s collection.

“They hadn’t been touched for close to 20 years and some books haven’t been taken out since the late 1980s,” Mr. Vohden said. “So, about a year and a half ago, we were kind of kicking around the idea of renovations for it. ... We needed to have a space that was more modern and met the needs of our students now.”

After some discussions, Mr. Vohden, Father McHugh and others got in touch with the Biondo family and told them about the idea. The Biondo family was not only excited about it, but they wanted to make the research center something that had never been seen before.

“Mr. Joseph Biondo, who was the original benefactor, and his family wanted to turn this into the best private school research center in the state,” Father McHugh said.

With Biondo’s approval and the family’s donation of $300,000, the school revamped the library into a center that now includes 25 Apple computer work stations, 11 sofa chairs with rotating desktops, 10 square tables, eight bench sofas with outlets on the sides plus clear tables and round stools across from them, four high-top tables and three round tables that break down into three separate tables.

In addition, there are two 70-inch LED Smart TVs and there are two private rooms — one being a conference room and the other being a workstation area with four cubicles and a long table. Moreover, there will be a full-time media specialist — Mrs. Judith Beebe Zoeller — on hand to oversee the center and help students.

Mr. Vohden says these features, along with student WiFi and some stacks of books, will give students who are “constantly connected to the internet and technology” a place to do their work efficiently.

“Every kid has an iPad, computer or smart phone,” Mr. Vohden said. “The old library used to have standup computer stations, but they were only used to look up the books that were in the stacks and students had to go get them. So, students would be standing at a computer station for 45 minutes or longer working on a research paper. Clearly, the needs changed.

“We’ve always kind of rivaled a small college library as far as resources available. Now, we have the resources and the workspace of one.”

And when school opens on Aug. 28, Mr. Vohden and the rest of the administration believe the Biondo Research Center will be the shining example of what a library should look like.

“I’m pretty confident we have the best library around this area as far as meeting the needs of the kids,” Mr. Vohden said. “The kids are going to love it when they get in and it is going to be awesome for students for years to come.”

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