School Libraries

Up from the ashes (part ten)

(parts one through nine here)

One of my Spring Break chores is to finish the insurance claim. If I haven’t mentioned it before, MPOW has a full replacement value insurance policy. This means that assigning value to the items lost is critical: it’s not enough to just print out a list of the catalog and say “here, this is what we had.”

There are a few reasons why this task is more difficult than one would think.

I’m also still processing the results of the visits we did to other school libraries, many recently “updated.” MPOW has hired a consultant to help us plan the space and our US Tech Coordinator and I wanted to see one of the spaces he’d been involved with. We also wanted to see spaces that our architect’s firm had redone (including one they laud – more on that later). There were other schools that we knew had spent time and money on their library spaces, both good and bad. This wasn’t just a trip to see the Best of the Best, we also wanted to see the Ugly.


We learned a lot.

  • Private study spaces were needed: the one thing we heard from every school was “we need more of them”.
  • Old-fashioned carrels were out: the best were a small table with a low rise in the middle, enabling students to chose to work together or not.
  • Chairs with swing-up arms for laptops, books and papers were really popular with students.
  • Moving work/instructional space to where the resources are is critical.
  • “Quiet” no longer means silent, it means “dull roar”. And kids are ok with that.
  • Flexibility is critical in terms of floor plans, seating and instruction.
  • Standardized light bulbs helps (one space had 20 different sizes/styles)
  • Zoned heating/cooling is needed (why waste $$ on areas that aren’t being used during vacation times?)
  • Dollars do not equal good design: one school spent millions and looked like a school library I’d have used 30 years ago.
  • The best libraries were built in consultation with the librarians, and a goal of providing the school with the best possible resources. When the librarians were ignored, the spaces just didn’t work.

Will we get what we want? I don’t think so. And I hate exercises in futility, so I’m cranky. Even worse, there’s no impetus on the part of administration to review our practice: this is a traditional school, so what we’ve done in the past can’t possibly be in need of review and reflection. IMVHO, we’re going to build a beautiful space that doesn’t meet the students needs. Or that of our program.

1 thought on “Up from the ashes (part ten)”

  1. For your sake, I hope that you’re wrong. In an ideal world, you’ll have the sort of user-friendly library you want housed in the traditional setting that the admin wants.If you can’t dream, I’ll do it for you. :0)

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