Belconnen High School is a world away from the ancient Athenian agora, a central square where citizens of the city would trade, meet, conduct the business of politics and learn.
But the freshly renovated school's "learning commons" borrows from the same idea, bringing the school's library into the 21st century.
Principal David McCarthy said the centre of the school, once an open courtyard but now transformed into an enclosed atrium-like space, was a place for students all through the school day.
"It's not as though it's open or closed because there's no doors to open or close it. Therefore it's just open all the time, like any sort of commons area," he said.
And the books? The fiction collection is in the commons area, with specialised non-fiction shelves on their way to house subject collections in different parts of the school.
Science books will be with science labs and humanities classrooms will be right near the shelves of history, English and geography books, Mr McCarthy said.
"The whole school becomes the library, rather than one place that you've got to book in to, which is heavily controlled in terms of who can come in and when," he said.
The school reopened in February after a $25.7 million renovation program revitalised the 1970s-era buildings, now home to more than 470 students and 80 staff.
"What you're looking at is a project that started nearly seven years ago to do up a school that had got to near the end of its working life. And high schools tend to get to the end of their working life quicker than primaries or colleges for that matter," Mr McCarthy said.
An English teacher manages the learning commons, while faculty administrative assistants manage the satellite collections.
Australian School Libraries Association president Margo Pickworth said the distributed model was becoming more common and worked with the right resources.
"The core element for the success of any model is a qualified and innovative teacher librarian who works across all the classes and subjects and is embedded within the teaching and learning program," Mrs Pickworth said, speaking on behalf the association's board.
Margaret Merga, a senior lecturer at the school of education at Edith Cowan University whose work has focused on the impact of school libraries, said research had shown teacher librarians in schools led to better student outcomes across different subject areas.
There needed to be a top-down directive that all schools needed a teacher librarian and adequate library resources, which would help safeguard libraries from cuts, Dr Merga said.
"I guess it's frustrating when you see money being spent on libraries and inadequate resourcing around staffing, because you're not making the most of the resource," she said.
Thirty-three government schools have teacher librarians in the ACT, with six schools employing a dedicated librarian. Another 49 schools have admin staff or volunteers running the library, while three government colleges have shared access to a public library.
A 2018 paper by Dr Merga based on interviews with 30 West Australian teacher librarians found they provided students with age-appropriate reading, facilitated silent reading and helped prepare students for "high-stakes literacy testing".
Charles Conder Primary School and Belconnen High have dedicated spaces for students to access library resources, but are not traditional library spaces, a spokesman for the education directorate said.
Canberra and Goulburn Catholic education director Ross Fox said libraries continued to be an important feature of schools but students needed to be equipped for reading digitally. St Clare's College, where a learning commons has already taken the place of a traditional library, was in the process of building a new digital-enabled learning environment.
At Belconnen High, Mr McCarthy said the renewal project had been an opportunity to create a contemporary school.
"There's not one single classroom in this school that's not glass, that you can't see through. Not one. All the staff rooms you can see straight through. We are all visible, all the time," Mr McCarthy said.
"That was one of the big parts of an open, flexible, 21st century learning environment. As you can see, it looks and feels like an adult environment, almost office environment. We have parents who come in here and go, 'Oh, I wish my office looked like this.'"
The battle to keep students off their phones and computers would continue - games of giant chess during breaks and battles involving programming and robotics were some of the strategies - but the central commons area had become central to the life of the school.
"It is a place where [students] can come; they can grab a book, they can read a book, they can take some books out. But equally, it's a place where they can sit, they can talk with their friends in the booths, as we call them," Mr McCarthy said.
And even though there are no barriers in and out of the library space, not a single book has gone missing since it opened in February.