Library Life, Space & Design

Library Learning Commons Redesign: Planning Phase

Even though schools in my province are reopening this fall, the future role of the library is still unknown at this time, however, I intend on trying to continue on with business as usual as much as I can. With that being said, I have decided to start tackling the redesign of my library.

Some of you may remember a post I did some months ago on how I updated and transformed my old library learning commons. Technically, I have been in my new library now since February, but because of COVID-19, I was only really there, phsically, for one month. Within that short time of living in the space, I began brainstorming and consulting with my admin about some of the things we wanted to do to redesign the space and make it function more as a learning commons. Like I have mentioned previously on this subject, there are many components involved in order to make this happen. It is not just about the cosmetics of the space and updating old to new, but it is also about the furniture you select, how you operate the space and it is also dependent on your role in the library and how you adapt it to meet the needs of students and staff. Many things to take into consideration, yet all pieces are essential to make this a well-oiled machine.

I plan on making this a three-part post series. Today’s blog post is going to look at the planning phase, where I’m going to share with you all the ideas I have for the space, as well as my thought process and questions I’m still trying to work through. The second post will be about what decisions were made and the final reveal after everything has come together. The third and final post I hope to discuss more on the logistics of operations and how I run the library learning commons.

Let’s get to it then, shall we? Let me introduce you to my library!

Below is an outline of the overall library space. Between this visual and the collection of images I am about to share below, this should give you a good sense of what the space currently looks like.

  • Windows – All this natural light is wonderful! I would love to bring in some plants in the future!
  • Office – I did not have an office in my previous library. I like having this space, because I love having a place where I can do my work, especially when I need to catalogue and process books. I found at my previous library that I could never do any of this work in between periods, because I needed a good chunk of time to take everything out and then pack it up again. I do not have this issue anymore now that I have my office.
  • It’s New – The school I am at now is a newer build, so my library does not really need the same cosmetic face-lift like my old library required.

  • Windows – As much as I love all the natural light I get, I never considered the possibility of sun damage on the books. There are shades for every window, however, the damage has already been done and mostly all the book spines in my library are sun damaged. Not detrimental, as the books are still in good shape and the covers remain the same, but the spines are no longer vibrant and attractive. Another issue with all the windows, again, something I did not realize until later, was the lack of wall space. Due to the windows accounting for most of the wall space, this leaves no room for bookshelves to run along the perimeter of the library, which can be a huge space saver. Again, not something that cannot be solved, but something I did not realize I appreciated so much from my past library.
  • Furniture – Many pieces were purchased prior to my arrival and I like some, but I am finding some of the other pieces challenging to incorporate into my vision. The issue with some of the furniture is that they work great for primary students, but not the older students. This makes the space appear as if it is only intended just for our youngest students, which is the opposite message I want to send out to my junior and intermediate students, the student groups we struggle so much to get into the space sometimes! If it were up to me, I would have purchased furniture that could be used from grades K-8 (see what was chosen for my previous library. These furniture pieces work great for all grades).
  • No Makerspace – The old computer lab is now a classroom. This was not the case at my previous library and we had plans to convert the old computer lab to become a Makerspace/collaboration space. After discussions with my new admin, it sounds like they are on board with creating a Makerspace in the library, but where to put it is the question.
  • No Designated Space for Smart Board – There is a projector screen mounted to the bookshelves, which seems like it was just thrown there because no other wall space is available for something like this. There is no projector mounted anywhere, so I do have to bring in and out a projector if I wish to present anything to classes. It just feels like there is not a designated space where library instruction can take place and I would really like to change that.
  • Benches with Built-in Shelving – These benches were added last year. The newest library in our board had them put in and my admin really loved them and had them installed in our library as well. At first I disliked these, but I am slowly warming up to them.
  • Office – My dream was to have my own office and now here I am crying about it being a challenge, hear me out though! I want to replicate the model I implemented at my old school, where our LLC is a place students can come and work throughout the day, even while other classes have their scheduled visits. At my previous library, the LLC was a revolving door and I wish to have the same happen in my new library. If this is the model I wish to implement though, I need to be out in the open library to supervise. This means I cannot be in my office, because then I will not have eyes on students. This is how the office becomes problematic.
  • Circulation Desk – Though this space is out in the library itself, my circ desk has blind spots and limits my field of vision from around the corner, where our tables are currently situated for students. Also, I have three huge filing cabinets and paper cutters that take up more than half the space. I feel like this is not a good use of space, considering circ desks are normally never this large!

  • New Story Time Chair – First of all, I would like to replace my current story time chair. Rocking chairs are now deemed a health and safety hazard and there are stains and signs of wear on this rocker. Basically, it is time for it to go. I am looking to replace it with something new and modern!
  • Move Junior Nonfiction Collection – I also want to move the junior nonfiction books. Not sure where though, but I do not really like them floating in the middle of the library. Maybe against the window where the mini couch and chairs are? Have a look at the next picture to see where I mean.

  • Reconfigure/Rearrange Furniture – As I have already mentioned earlier, I am not a huge fan of some of the new furniture that was previously purchased for this library, specifically the mini couch and chairs, as well as the flower petal seating (not the best picture below to show these pieces, but it is the best I have right now. It at least gives you an idea of their location in the library). In a perfect world, I would get rid of both, but seeing how these are brand new, I am stuck with them. SO, what is my game-plan? I have seen some ideas on Instagram and Pinterest in how people have changed how these pieces fit into their libraries by simply reconfiguring the flower petal seating and rearranging where they put their mini couch/chairs. This is really all I can do in my situation, so I plan to play around with these pieces until I am happy with how they function in the space. If you have any ideas though, please send them my way!

  • Clean Out Circulation Desk – Those three filing cabinets that live behind my circ desk? I want them gone! They hold many guided reading materials, so ideally I would like to have these moved to our teacher resource room, however, there is just not enough room. I would like to maybe move these somewhere else, but again, I will need to try and figure out the spacing. I do not really want anything behind the circ desk that invites students or staff to come behind there. Not that I do not believe in shared spaces, but that is where I do my work, where I have files, paperwork, supplies, etc. laid out and about. With less things behind there, it eliminates reasons for people to go back there.

  • Get Rid of Book Spinners – Spinners may hold tonnes of books, but I loathe them. I would really like to get rid of this spinner structure and purchase new shelving to store our fiction collection.
  • Get Rid of Banners – You cannot see them in this picture, but on the wall above the spinners, there are banners, like the big ones you find in gymnasiums. I want them gone. Instead, to celebrate our Battle of the Books and Chess team winners, I would like to maybe do plaques instead. Smaller and less bulky, I feel we can put up several of these over the years if we give them a designated space to hang in the library.

  • New Book Bins – I would also like to purchase new buckets/bins to hold books on our shelves and built-in benches. Right now, we have a mix of bins that are all different colours, sizes and styles. I would like to pick something that is all the same so it can look uniform throughout the space.

Now that I have shown you what my space looks like and shared with you some of the things I wish tackle, let me now show you some inspirational images I have gathered for the changes I wish to make. These are all images from libraries/librarians I follow on social media. I have fallen in love with these libraries for the furniture they have selected, the colours they chose, the layouts they have arranged, etc. I wish to implement as many of these elements as possible within my own library learning commons. [For more inspiration, check out my Library Space & Design Pinterest board here.]

Images used are from the following sources: (Top row, left to right) Trade West, Mike Rawls – The Book Wrangler, (Bottom Row, left to right) Jessica Golz – Teacher Golz, Ms Jessie – A Happy Teacher Heart, John Schu – Mr. Schu Reads
Images used are from the following sources: (Top row, left to right) Jessica Golz – Teacher Golz, John Schu – Mr. Schu Reads, Mien Company, (Bottom row, left to right) DVA Fabrications, ReadBrightly.com, Book Space for Schools

Using the inspiration images above, I then searched around for pieces that I could potentially incorporate into my own library space. Using what I already have, combined with some new furniture, below is a wish list of what I would like to see in my library.

  1. High Top Table & Chairs – I already have the chairs, but I am now looking for a high top table to arrange these chairs around [chair inspiration from Mien Company and high top table from Trade West].
  2. Tables & Chairs – I am also looking for tables on wheels to make the space even more flexible [chair and table inspiration from Mien Company].
  3. Flexible Seating – these are pieces I already have in my library that I am going to incorporate in the new design [wobble stool and cube seating inspiration from Trade West, flower shaped modular seating from Wayfair].
  4. Mobile Bookcase – I already have a few of these, but I am looking to replace the book spinners with a few more of these units [mobile bookcase from Trade West].
  5. Curved Mobile Bookcase – I would love to incorporate a piece like this, just to break up the space and have some curves in the furniture, rather than everything just being all straight lines. I also love that you can add seating behind the shelving unit, making it another flexible seating option for students [curved mobile bookcase from Trade West].
  6. Modular Couch – These pieces insert well behind the curved shelving units. I purchased some for my previous library and they were great [modular couch from Trade West].
  7. Book Bins – I had these at my previous library and they were wonderful! I know that they fit on the fixed shelving, but I am unsure about the sizes and if they can fit properly on our mobile shelving units. I will need to look further into this [books bins from Really Good Stuff].
  8. Collaboration Table – I have no idea where I would even put this, because I lack wall space, but I am so in love with the idea of incorporating a collaboration table. I know this is not a feasible idea right now during COVID, but I am thinking long-term and in the future when we can have opportunities for students to collaborate again [table from Trade West].
  9. Wingback Chair – my current read-aloud chair is OLD so looking to update this with something as lovely as this [wingback chair inspiration from IKEA].

This is what I have figured out so far. I still have quite a bit to still arrange and decide upon, but this is what I am envisioning for the space to look like.

Friends, this is where I need your help now. I need your library expertise, your knowledge and your ideas. After reading through everything, what are your thoughts on it all? What do you like? What do you foresee as maybe becoming problematic? Do you have any different ideas than what has been shared here today? Any and all feedback is welcomed and encouraged. I know I am in the presence of greats here and I am looking forward to hearing your thoughts!

As school librarians, we can often feel at times like we are on our own little islands, and yet, it is in these times, I remember I not only have the many library professionals within my own school board that I can reach out to, but I also have this tiny corner of the internet where I am so blessed to be able to connect with each and every one of you.

Many thanks, all!

Good luck to everyone returning to their school libraries this fall! We can do this xo

2 thoughts on “Library Learning Commons Redesign: Planning Phase”

  1. I love this post! So many good ideas. Your library is beautiful – love the windows and the decor. I don’t have a lot of input since I’m still so new to this world, but I’m going to follow along and see what you do. I love the curved mobile bookshelves! I really want to know what you do to incorporate a maker space, as the computer lab at my school is now going to be a classroom (grade 8). It’s my dream to have a true maker space in the library, and now that I’m full time there, hopefully I can make that happen. Good luck!

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    1. Thanks so much, Erin! Oh no! That space would have been perfect for a makerspace at your school. Maybe we can brainstorm some ideas together? Looks like we both have a similar situation in terms of space, so I’m sure we could get creative and come up with something for our libraries! Let’s chat more about this during the school year – I would love to collaborate if you’re interested 🙂

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