Monday, March 11, 2013

Redesigning a great space with the Learning Commons in mind

I have a beautiful school library space. It's big and I have nice shelves on wheels and many iMac computers.
It's easier, in my opinion to make a mediocre space better than it is to make an already good space great. That doesn't mean you shouldn't try to improve it. The document Together For Learning discusses creating a flexible physical and virtual space. It was time for me to make more moves towards incorporating a Learning Commons approach to the physical appearance of my school library.

Back in December, I wrote about creating a play place in my school library. I wanted the play place to be a bit more tidy but still accessible. I don't have a great visual-spatial sense so I asked some students for advice on how to rearrange things. My adult volunteers made some other suggestions and we made some changes.

The photos do not capture how significant the changes are, but here are some shots of the new and improved play area:

 All the large stuffed animals have been removed from the top of the shelves and placed where they can be reached.

The circle tables are free for whatever activities people want to do.

All the small stuffed animal containers are kept together instead of away from the play area.

The basketball net (which I originally tried to place on top of a table but it kept falling) is held up by the door handle of an unused door. It's still one of the most popular items in the play zone.

We took a shelf away from the fiction section and transformed it into a shelf for play items in bins and containers.

The piano was moved so it is part of the play area and the reference books were moved beside the teacher resource so that students could actually see where the encyclopedias are kept. Before this, the students had to round a corner to find the encyclopedias, so they weren't being used enough.

Two rocking chairs that were in the crater are now in here as part of the play area.

Removing the shelf from the fiction area meant that we needed to re-configure the fiction section. The spaces between the shelves were too small for multiple people to fit in to browse for chapter books. Once again, we chatted with students and adult volunteers for ideas. We also discussed how to make our signage more flexible, so that we didn't have to waste paper and laminate to make new signs every time we thought about changing the layout.

This is what the fiction section looks like now. We ordered 8 1/2 X 11 clear sign holder that we could easily update if we changed around the shelves. My super-fantastic high school volunteers came and re-did the books on the shelves. One insisted that the beginning of a letter always begin at the far left side of a shelf so that students would know where to look for sections, so we followed his recommendation. This led to some weeding as we tried to make room. We ensured that there was space at the end of every shelf so that new purchases could be added with ease. We now have access to those wall outlets that were covered by the shelves before.

It looks very plain but my principal came by when we were redoing things and he admired how clean and clear the new layout was. It's still a work in progress. The 2012-2013 goal was to completely weed the non-fiction section and once that's completed (we are at the 500 section right now), we can do similar things to the non-fiction section in terms of room.

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