Sunday, January 7, 2018

A Space and Place

This past Tuesday marked my one year anniversary as a Library Media Specialist!  I don't think I realized just how much I would love it and how much of a challenge it would be.  One of the things that I have worked hard to do this first year is to make the space inviting for children and manageable for all of us.  When I arrived January 2, 2017 this is pretty much what the Library Media Commons looked like:


It's a beautiful space, right!?! I can't say that I have done major renovations in the Media Commons, but I have made some slight changes based on input from my students, a vision I have for the space, and with the help of a few incredibly invaluable colleagues.

One of the first things I did was genrefy the library.  This is not a task that I thought I would take on, nor was it even something that I thought was possible until I watched this webinar with Tiffany Whitehead.  What ultimately drove my decision was my students asking where they could find the scary or funny books.  I began this last April and finished it the day before school started; signage included.  This continues to be a work in progress because I have been also finding ways to highlight high interest series and authors for the students as well.  I really just want it to be easy for them to find what they want and to make it feel more like a bookstore. 

In the midst of that, I tracked down some larger tables. Those round tables are great; they are just geared more towards the primary students and my intermediate students needed more developmentally appropriate space for work.  I was able to locate some tables (with the help of our interim AP at the time) in our district storage.  When I came back from April break they were in the library!  Let me just tell you how happy the 3rd-5th graders were!

That was tackled the first few months in my new position.  And you probably see those really great round and square seat things?  I reclaimed those in the first few weeks I had arrived.  When I first hit the scene they were MIA from the library and my new colleagues generously returned them!  I am so grateful for that!  One of the most challenging things with these seats has been teaching the kiddos how to use them well so that they last us a while!

Since this school year started, I have been working on re-crafting the space to not only bring my vision of the library to life, but to also provide the students with some flexibility and self-management.  As beautiful as the space is, it has some challenges with its design.  What library doesn't?  It is an incredibly stimulating space with how large it is the way your voice carries depending on where you are in the library, and how open it appears.  

In some ways, it used to look and feel like a runway.  One of my invaluable colleagues helped me decrease the fast foot traffic by just rearranging a few shelves an strategically position the tables.  Not only does this new furniture arrangement help the kiddos manage how they move in the library, it also provides them with a lot of options for how and where they want to work.


Within the vision of creating a more inviting and flexible space, I wanted to do something with the stadium-ish seating.  It was another area that invited play, jumping and running and because of the design, sound carries differently over there, making something like a simple walk up the stairs sound like boots stomping.  I added a half table and a couple of comfy seating options to make it more of a space for independent or partner work.  This has absolutely made an impact on how these stairs are used!  

And lastly, the computer lab.  Personally, I think that the concept of a computer lab is archaic.  I was creating lessons just so it would get some use! My computer lab was upstairs and housed about 24 desktops.  However, we are a 1:1 school and this really made me think just how necessary the space really was.  I ended up dismantling it.  I moved some of the computers to the lower part of the library to provide different areas and types of seating for computer work, dispersed about 10 desktops to classrooms, and kept about 10 for the lab.  

Now the former computer lab has the same type of look and feel as the lower library.  There are different nooks and spaces for kiddos to be productive and feel successful.  And what's great, is that with the help of my IT I was able to find a way to monitor the upper level if I need to be in the lower level!  

These two spaces not only provide the students with flexibility with how and where they work, but it provides me with flexibility.  I now have 4 very different areas to gather students as a group: in front of the big screen TV, on the stairs, huddled inside the picture book shelves, or upstairs in front of the SMARTBoard.  Each provides me with different options for gathering and allows me to also take into consideration the age and stage of the group that happens to be in front of me.  Like I said, it is a work in a progress.  Changing the physical space has been one phase.  The next step is to change the form and function of learning that occurs in the library.