Friday, February 10, 2012

Designing The New School Library

There were several pervasive threads that ran through our readings this week, a topic that has become particularly relevant to me (see my last post), is designing effective learning spaces. The school I'll be working at is brand new, but it was not designed by a librarian (or in conjunction with one either). There are two floors of library space, little storage area, and the shelves are placed in the middle of the room, using all the flexible work areas. Oh, and did I mention the room is round? Not ideal, but there are some things that can be changed, according to the readings, to make it a better library for the future.

Movable shelving furniture-Libraries should be flexible and usable spaces, what I use it for will probably be entirely different than what another teacher needs it for, or for the group of students who is studying together. To accomodate everyone, things need to be movable, on casters or gliders, able to be moved aside or switched around to accomodate everyone. To this end, shelving should be fixed, but out of the way (around the edge of the room maybe, at least that's my current plan). Space should be open, with tables and chairs that can accomodate at least two classes (or one large staff meeting). I see this kind of space use in places such as the Shapiro undergrad library, or, to a lesser and more annoying extent, in our own class meeting room.

Be neutral with your color scheme-There is nothing more useless than painting a wall a bright, trendy color, because the day after you're done, something new will be out and you'll be stuck with lime green walls (I was in middle school, lime green was hot, okay). On the other hand, there's nothing more tacky than sticking with a color for decades, because you have it lying around and it's always worked in the past. The school I went to for my Undergrad had a color scheme that had lasted decades, the color was called coconut dream and it always made me think of the color of the inside of my mouth (light pink, that is). Neither of these things work. Just like with our technology, we need to think ahead when we choose our decor.

Which brings me to technology-one to one technology is coming, it has to, because that is how students learn. With lower price points (I can get a Kindle for $79 now!), ubiquitous internet services (at least in the United States), and increasing support (technical and administrative) we have an infrastructure that we can use technology effectively in, giving our students the tools to succeed in the world at large. Laptop carts instead of computer labs allow the flexible spaces I talked about earlier, with the integration of mobile technologies.

Clean up your act-there is no reason a library can't be a friendly, safe, inviting environment and still be highly functional. De-cluttering, cleaning, and redecorating can help students feel more welcome in the long run. I see this where I used to work, there were piles everywhere, it was like a maze of stuff (books, mostly), no one used it because no one knew where to look for what they needed. Simple redecoration is removing superfluous things (i.e., anything that dangles in front of you when you are walking through the library space), cleaning the space, labeling appropriately (sorry, this is a bone of contention for me just in general), and cleaning (dusting, weeding, vacuuming and organizing).

Overall, I think it's adorable when they're talking about designing new spaces, because most libraries are forced to work with what they have (and that's sub-par a lot of the time), but these are all ideas that can be implemented, with time and patience, in any library.


  1. I agree with the neutral color scheme...takes me back to my summers on paint crew painting dorms. There was a particular awful basement of salmon, teal, and cream. The colors were painted over the next year. A color scheme I really like right now is in the new Clark Library - tans and muted dark greens.

  2. I'm on the neutral color scheme bandwagon as well. You can always add accents.


Thanks for commenting!