Monday, May 25, 2015

What About School Libraries? How Do We Design For Student Learning?

I am a self proclaimed library nerd! I know I am a library nerd because I read every article, website and blog post (even a recent Saturday workshop on library redesign!) that I can find about redesigning library spaces for student learning in the 21st Century! (Since we are already 15 years into the 21st Century, we better get cracking!)  I find the articles inspiring because, if I am completely honest, I know that school libraries have gotten a little lost in the digital revolution and the trends that sweep the educational profession. It sometimes feels as though libraries have lost their spot at the proverbial "popular table". So the question is, "In this digital age, are we really going to keep the room with all the books?"

Though the question is still being answered, I am fairly certain that the answer is a definitive - yes and no. I don't think our libraries can (or should) remain a warehouse for only books. School libraries need to be about the students first, and meeting their needs. They need to be flexible spaces that provide a place for students to collaborate with each other and contemplate by themselves. These are two things that our students need in order to master the art and act of learning! The trend toward personalized digital learning, makerspaces and creativity demand that our spaces help facilitate this kind of learning along side of reading. So yes to the books, but also yes to many other things too!

So what about our library? Our Oak Hills Library has always been a beautiful space!  Two story ceilings with lots of south facing windows make it a jewel in the center of the school.  But I want the library to be more than just pretty! I asked myself what I could do to redesign it for student learning? After all the inspirational articles on redesign, I realized that we currently have lots of collaborative space, but we lack spaces for students to settle in and focus on their own reading and digital work. We lacked some individualized space! With almost no budget there wasn't going to be much that I could do to redesign the space. So, I decided to carve out some room for a few inexpensive adirondack chairs and some cushions that I had in storage.

Who knew! I would have never guessed what a splash these additions would make to the space! Students can't seem to get enough! The portability of the new chairs and cushions also makes them ideal for our library.  So, in the end, it was a small step toward redesigning for student learning, but surprisingly effective! Now on to "genrifying" our fiction (look for a blog post really soon!) and a makerspace!