Time to make a quick reflection of the last 3 weeks before I forget it all in the blur of activity of the coming weeks. When I started my job I inherited a library that is not very large, serves around 650 elementary school students ranging from Kindergarten (age 3) to Grade 6 (age 11/12). The space is notionally flexible, in that the central bookcases are on wheels, but practically inflexible. As Woolner (2010) points out – flexibility in furnishing a learning space can be hampered by how easily and quickly furniture can be moved, the amount of space available to reconfigure furniture and who has ownership of the space.
Before I proceed, I do want to say quite explicitly that this is in no way a criticism of my predecessors who were wonderful people, great professionals who did good work and much loved by the entire community. If anything they suffered mainly from lack of time due to fixed scheduling which didn’t allow thinking time nor time to work on some of the things I’m mentioning below. The library also has a very very small budget and the school will be moving premises in the next two years so investment in space has ceased. I also have the enormous benefit of doing a course like INF536 which allows me to learn about and consider the impact of design and design thinking on learning and which also forces me to undertake tasks and assignments that I may not otherwise free up time to do.
As Yvonne Barrett discussed in her blogpost, before embarking on this course the first inclination one would have would be to start moving things around and try to make it all different. Instead, following our observation tasks, we met together and looked at the space and just philosophised about what would be possible and how the space was used. Instead, each day I make a few small changes based on observations of the previous day. Except as far as the signage and fake flowers were concerned.
Now, when one enters a space like a library, even if one ostensibly “owns” that space, there are some considerations of co-users that I think it’s important to bear in mind. The first week I was getting to know one of my library assistants, the second week she was joined by our permanent part time assistant and last week the second full time library assistant came back to work. These ladies have a wealth of knowledge about the library, how it functions, the teachers, the students, the families. I also wasn’t sure who was responsible for the fake flowers and signs, so I kind of tiptoed around the topic and then finally asked if anyone would feel insulted if I removed all the dangling things from the ceiling, the “no” signs from the walls and replaced the fake flowers with live plants. To my immense relief they all unanimously agreed and down came all the distracting bits.
It was the signage that disturbed me most of all, a mixture of handwritten, printed out pictures, a lot of prohibitions. But who “owned them” and who may be upset if I took them down?
Working space / visibility
My office was (and still is to a certain extent) a mess. My view out, and by default other’s view in to me was blocked on both sides by a projector screen and signage of the front desk. I decided to pick my battles, since I didn’t want to spend the year trying to train everyone to put the screen back up every-time they’d used it, so I politely asked my staff if they’ mind relocating some of the signs on their window to open things up a bit – luckily they were very accommodating and did so. I’ve put in a requisition for a white board to cover the other window.
Display / Shelving
We have a relatively small space and A LOT of books. At the moment everything is looking particularly crammed as circulation is not yet in full swing. Once we’ve cut down the books by a couple of 1000 in circulation I want to start decluttering the shelves. In the mean time, I’ve relocated the DVD collection into my office as only teachers were permitted to borrow them anyway, and moved the World languages into a more prominent space, moved the reference books down and created 6 shelves for display.
I’m planning to make it a UOI (unit of inquiry) visible learning space just as soon as kids start producing things in their classrooms. For now we just have a few pictures and books on “Friendship” to start the year off on a good note.
Since I’ve been discussing book-care (with the little ones) and essential agreements in the library (see this great article) with the older students, I’d like to “borrow” and adapt the great signage I saw that Barb Reid had put outside the UWCSEA-East Primary library (see picture below).
There is no picture of the carpet / rug / mat because the carpet disappeared over the summer – which made for great speculative discussion with each class about writing something about the “mystery of the missing library carpet” and we talked about how the shark may have eaten it, or if the previous librarian had used it as a magic carpet to fly back home. But 35 classes have reminded me that the carpet looms large in their lives and we need a carpet in the library!
To do list:
- My STEAM colleague has offered to get the kids to help me make some nice signs for areas of the collection that are a bit more natural.
- My Chinese colleagues are going to help to ensure that our Chinese collection is levelled and that our signs are in Chinese (duh!)
- Need to free up more display space – I’m considering putting the professional books into the staff room and training teachers to do self-checkout using the Follett mobile app.
- My workspace is still terribly cluttered. Want to put up a whiteboard over the window that is always blocked by the projector screen and to reorganise the book boxes to free up some shelf space.
- We need to tweak the schedule a bit more. I’ve been reading some great literature on fixed vs. flexible scheduling – we’ve moved from fixed scheduling to hybrid scheduling and I’ve just sent out a google form to everyone for comments and feedback.
- Digital Visibility – although we’re subscribed to libguides, no-one has had time to populate any (hangover from fixed scheduling). Since my Grade 5 class has a very limited number of physical books for their current unit (“how we organise ourselves – YAY on design thinking!!) I’ve offered to help make a digital guide on this – which is probably more relevant.
- Aligned to that, we have a long a complicated URL for our catalog, a very cluttered landing page and no nice website – Katie Day (Librarian Edge) pointed me to a great article by Aaron Tay about how libguides can help me fix that!
- Library / librarian visibility – I created a “who I am” little poster, but then it got stuck while I wait to hear about the social media policy of the school (it has my twitter address etc. on it!). Besides that I need to invite myself to some planning meetings and make sure I understand what each teacher is looking for, and also sell what they don’t know they need.
I’m going to talk more about the “design thinking” and “design time” in the next post.
Woolner, P. (2010). Rebuilding your school: can we transform learning through space and facilities? In The design of learning spaces (pp. 80–94). New York: Continuum International Pub. Group.