Saturday, February 6, 2016

The Flexible School Library: Creating A 21st Century Space For Our Learners

The Flexible School Library: Creating A 21st Century Space For Our Learners

Our school administration approached me about exploring the idea of updating our existing library spaces three years ago. We brainstormed the issue for months and even considered adding on to our high school library by overtaking an attached courtyard. We soon scrapped this plan since it was going to be a high cost to our district. After examining our former junior high library facility (which is still a part of our 8th -12th grade high school complex), we noticed that the space could be expanded to include an outside entryway, abandoned office space, and teachers' lounge to create a much larger space. We began the process of planning how the renovated areas could look and function.

We knew the spaces would have to be large enough to hold over 12,000 print materials with room to grow. Our learning community would also need flexible areas that would allow collaboration events with their classes. There are many students interested in gaming and coding. We wanted to have an area specifically for these programming and gaming activities. The existing junior high library area had spaces to fulfill all these needs. The old teachers' lounge had areas that would serve as workspaces, restrooms, and storage for textbooks.

Our administration, French Architects, Hill & Cox construction, and myself, along with Mrs. Misti Bell (my partner teacher librarian) began working together on the concept development of this renovation project. The planning and construction portion took about a year altogether. The finished product contains many flexible and very welcoming areas. Let's take a closer look at some of the highlights:

Fiction Room Features:

The cafe themed bar with pop up power access for patrons
We knew this would be one of the most popular areas since our patrons are frequently in search of young adult fiction titles. A cafe theme was selected for this space. This portion of the room also has a hardwood floor. The area outside of the cafe theme is carpeted (see photos below). The cafe area contains a bar with power access towers (both AC plugs and USB). There is also a small stage in this zone. Patrons have access to a gaming/ coding room with five LCD TV monitors and board games. The fiction room also has 28 laptop computers and two printers available to patrons.

The cafe themed area with movable shelving units and stage

The stage area

Another view of the cafe area with curved movable shelving units

The Gable Bradley Band performs at our grand opening event

The gaming/ coding room

The computer lab within the fiction room

Computer lab setup in the fiction room

In the photo to the left, you can see the fiction room opening into the main entryway. The large brown doors to the right can be pulled to the left to close off the area when needed. This was a feature we requested to accommodate those occasions when a teacher needs less patron traffic during a lesson or activity in the space. The non-fiction room also has this feature.
Entryway and Main Circulation Desk Area:

Circulation desk view as seen from fiction room (the doors to the left go directly into the parking lot)

Patron seating with pop up power access in circulation desk area

Non-Fiction Room Features: 

Non-Fiction computer lab area with manga/ graphic novel area located to the right
It was decided to maintain the more traditional library theme for the non-fiction room. We kept our wooden tables to provide much needed workspaces for our learning community. There are 32 laptop computers and two printers available to our students in this space. We decided to have two curved movable shelving units in this area for the manga and graphic novel collection (which our students have enjoyed).

Manga/ graphic novel area with comfortable seating

Non-Fiction circulation desk with office area in background

These are the overall highlights of our library renovation and merger of the junior high and high school collections. The construction process took about 7 months to complete. (There are still minor details being completed at the time of this writing.) It took about 2 1/2 weeks to move and merge the collection/ materials into the spaces.

We can already see that the newly renovated facility will be much better for our numerous library collaboration programs. Students and teachers have been very complimentary of the design and furniture selections. One of the most memorable quotes from a student, "I don't really read, but this new library makes me want to read!"

Special Thanks

The Lakeside High School Library Media Center team is truly grateful to our school board and administration for this wonderful investment! Lakeside School District Superintendent, Mr. Shawn Cook, empowered us to "dream big" for our learning community! I want to also thank Lakeside Assistant Superintendents, Mr. Rick McLaughlin and Mr. Bruce Orr, for supporting and advising us through this process. We are grateful to Lakeside High School Principal, Mr. Darin Landry, for sharing and supporting our vision of this project for our students. He and his team consistently support the library program!

We want to express additional thanks to Mr. David French (Principal Architect and C.E.O) of French Architects for his designs and Mrs. Dawn Shafer (Interior Design Project Manager) for her amazing interior design work. The French Architects website can be found here. We also wish to express thanks to Mr. Robbie Cox of Hill & Cox Construction for bringing all the physical pieces together and making the library a reality. Hill & Cox's site can be found here. We are also very grateful to Lakeside School District Director of Technology, Mrs. Melinda Dodd, and her team for helping us with the various technology additions in the renovation!

What Happens Next?

Our team has learned a lot through this process. We will share more about our journey in this new facility in the coming months and years. The exciting questions we ponder are the following;

  • What discoveries await our learners? 
  • What will they learn from the voices of the authors whose works are housed in the library? 
  • What will they create in our makerspaces and gaming/ coding room? 
  • Who will they connect to outside of our school's walls using various technology, webcams, and projector screens? 

This much is certain... the adventure has only just begun.

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  1. Is it weird that these words and photos made me cry? It's amazing. I'm so excited for Lakeside.

    1. Not at all! We are so grateful for this wonderful investment in our learning community! I can't wait to see what happens next, Denise ;-)

  2. Just finding this and I am so inspired! I hope that I can get everyone on board here at Mena so we can transform our space into one that our 21st century learners can utilize!

  3. We are beginning the process of building a new school. Which equals a new library! A daunting task. Thank you so much for sharing your pictures and details. I love what you have done!

  4. Thank you, Vicki! Our students love the renovation!