Library Design with Intention

In my recent presentation at TCEA2013, I shared ideas for rethinking/revamping library design to meet the needs to students and teachers.   Most critical to our approach is to take an intentional view of our own spaces–to look at them as a stranger would and identify  obstacles to use, observe how students are learning in the library space, notice the impacts of technology on how your library functions, ask students and teachers what they would like.   Prakish Nair, of Design Share, suggests that we create learning spaces around many different areas–like watering holes for communication, caves for quiet learning, etc.  (See examples of their concepts here: watering hole and cave spaces ).  Your library can function as what Joyce Valenza calls a “libratory” or as a kitchen, or like a studio.   Think about how you would like it to function in a way that means students’ needs.

What are obstacles to learning in your space or obstacles to your interactions with students?  Whether it’s poor signage, giant  circulation desks which discourage student interaction, or policies that make it difficult for students and teachers to use your space, take a critical eye to your space.

As technology and other changes continue to affect our services, we need to think “flexible” when we are redesigning a space.  How can we create spaces that can be changed throughout the year to suit the uses we need?  Mobile furniture, dividers, and walls that fold or slide can all be ways to create more flexible spaces.

And how we can make our design more intentional and coherent, so that the pieces we choose, and the fonts and signage we use all cohere to create a unified feel to our library?   Again, observing our space with the eyes of a new student will help us see how we can help them navigate our library more easily.

Sometimes we have funds, and sometimes funds are low.  So think how you can get creative.   Can you have your own district maintenance shop cut apart your circulation desk?  Can they take out a section of carpet and put in floor tiles to create a “cafe” space?  Can you paint or have someone repaint a few “highlight” walls?  Can your art department contribute a mural?   Whether or not you have funds, it doesn’t cost much to take down all of your signage and replace it with “logo” signage that a student creates and is unified with the same font.

Ideas can be found everywhere, from chalkboards in restaurants to painted walls to storefronts in Anthropologie to items from IKEA.
Take a camera with you, look around, and snap photos of what appeals to you as a learner.  Ask some students to do the same.  Assemble a Pinterest page of ideas and have students add to it as well.  And then pull those ideas into a coherent “whole” that allows you to tell the story of your library through your physical design of the space.

The slides below have some ideas to get you started.  Please share some ways you transform your libraries by sharing photos or brainstorming ideas!  Follow more on my Pinterest and Scoopit pages on design.

9 comments

  1. Will enjoy looking through the slides and try not to be jealous. Our library is a hallway. A major traffic thoroughfare for the school–think “You have to go through the library to get to the front office. You have to go through the library to get to the nurse. Unless you are in a portable you have to go through the library to get to the cafeteria. Except for one grade you have to go through the library to get to music.” Can you tell I have sort of a rotten attitude about it? IT’S SO NOISY. Now, the loud is fun on days when we put out new book order displays. Kiddos are so excited oohing and ahhing. But that’s like what … 4 times a year? The rest of the time it interrupts just about every lesson or read aloud. #MUSTWORKONATTITUDE #ANDTRYCREATIVITY :/

  2. Angie, Actually this year there is a hallway through my library too, and it can be disruptive between periods for sure. But at high school of course we don’t have people going through except during passing periods, so I can see how this would be a huge distraction.

    So how can you maximize on it? Can you get some little moving dividers or whiteboards and cordon off the walkway area a little bit to screen it off? (We had our district maintenance people build those black plexiglass ones you see in the slideshow).

    Can they put up some sort of actual wall? Our middle school librarian found this glass wall that hangs from the ceiling tiles.

    How about having new book displays more often? Either do smaller orders or hold some books out so you can do a new display every month?

    Maybe you can sit down with your principal and brainstorm solutions? Share with him the current research on library instruction and ask how to accomplish this in this sort of space? or with a team of teachers and your maintenance crew–maybe they might have some creative ideas?

    I hear your stress and I hope that you can “take the bull by the horns” a bit and/or find ways to turn this lemon into lemonade. I realize it is easier said than done, but we do all have the power to affect change!

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