By Lauren Gilchrist
It’s time to turn the page on the library as we know it. Here are some tips for turning your school library into the heart and soul of your technology initiatives.
What kind of character do you want your library to have? The patterns of behavior and interactions within the library will define their utility, so it’s important to know what you envision your students doing in this space.
Should the library be a place where students go to work on group projects? To design and create? To get help? To relax? To study? Perhaps you would like the flexible space to support all of the above. Regardless, your underlying strategy should be a central focus throughout the remainder of the transformation.
Next, determine how you can best provide what’s needed to help bring your new library to life. The options are infinite: comfortable chairs, puzzles & LEGOs, stations for coding, moveable furniture, e-readers, a coffee bar, a 3D printer & makerspace, yoga mats, etc. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box. At this phase of planning, no idea is a bad one. Be sure to collect ideas from multiple sources – teachers, staff members, parents, and especially students.
Location affects culture, too. Choose an open-concept space with a lot of natural light and fresh air, if possible. They should also be easy to access.
The library at P.S. 69 in the Bronx, for instance, is strategically positioned so that students have to walk through it on their way to the main classroom floor. You could even consider a space with doors leading outdoors; hammocks and tables could provide students with a welcome opportunity to get some fresh air while they study.
Once you’ve defined a strategy for your library, you can officially hand the reigns to your principals, librarians, and technology teams for the design phase. Consider holding a group meeting, or even one-on-one meetings with staff members, to lay the groundwork for a successful transformation.
When your library is finished, the last thing to do is get your students using it. Perhaps the best way to do so is by employing some marketing techniques. Hopefully, this will not be a foreign practice to your team.
From a high-level standpoint, marketing has become almost imperative for schools to engage in. With media coverage always on the rise and an increase in social media use, you have no choice but to communicate proactively if you want any say in the public’s perception of your schools.
Some of these marketing strategies can play into your library marketing campaign, as well. Rebrand the spaces by coming up with creative names and slogans. Then promote them, including pictures, both within the school and to your students’ parents.
You can also host activities and events, and encourage student clubs and organizations to put the newly designed space to use. Be sure kids know that the librarians are there to help with more than just checking out books.
Finally, ask for feedback. Maybe there is something you overlooked or could have done better. It’s never too late to make changes and keep improving on spaces built to inspire.
It’s time to put the 20th century library back on the shelf and start a new chapter. After all, it’s much more than old carts and books that are ready to be transformed. It’s your students’ passion for innovation, learning, and discovery, and it’s just waiting to be rejuvenated.
Lauren Gilchrist is a blogger and video talent for Skyward’s digital media team. Skyward is a leading K-12 school administrative software provider, www.skyward.com.