Library redesign – current issues

As librarians we often make it our life and vacation’s mission to visit other libraries and drool over what they have (or haven’t got), how they’re organised things, what their displays look like – how the signage works out etc etc. and then we come home and try and adapt our current situation to optimise our own assets and spaces into something even more user friendly, accessible, with better book visibility etc. etc.

It’s not often we have a chance to go back to the drawing board and redo it. And then, suddenly you get what you wish for!  For the last year I’ve been tweaking and rearranging and moving things (documented here – see all 4 posts for the progression). Now finally we’ve had the funding approved to break through a wall and expand the library and to reconfigure it so that it better fits the needs of (must I say it?) 21C learning. Of course we’re still waiting for Government approval – so I better not count my chickens …

Ok, let’s say that in normal terms.  I’ve got a lovely library. It’s a bit cosy and run down, and a lot of things are improvised, but I love it, and (most) my students love it. It does have several rather important detracting factors though:

Instructional space

I have 35 classes a week, ranging from 20 to 40 minutes or sometimes longer depending on teacher needs. During that time, I typically give a micro-lesson (5 minutes) involving storytelling, a provocation, a video clip, booktalk by students or myself, or a slightly longer lesson that can involve explanation followed by a task, right up to a full 40 minute information literacy session that includes teaching and skill development.

But I don’t have an instructional space. I have a beat up, heavy black leather couch, next to a pull down projector screen (which is permanently down), next to a window without any blinds, behind glaring florescent lighting that has to be switched off. And nothing to write on, unless I drag a heavy flipboard in front of the screen and crouch down to write on it, as it’s not on adult human height.   My students sit on the mat on the carpet, or on too high chairs with legs that jut out and trip people up as they walk past, and write on too high tables.  And it’s OK. We do just fine.  But it could be a lot better.

Communal space

I just love the fact that the library is (my own quote) “the centre of the universe” in our school. But the disadvantage is that it gets used a lot for all sorts of other things. It doesn’t help that our school hall is enormous and acoustically dysfunctional, so any smaller gatherings get diverted to the library.

Fortunately, a far sighted predecessor made sure all the bookshelves were on wheels, so the library can relatively quickly be transformed into a biggish but comfortable open space. Unfortunately, that often occurs when actually, one of my classes has a library lesson, so they end up missing the lesson or having to reschedule. Rescheduling is a real issue when my calendar is pretty filled to the brim!

Display space

Short answer now – there isn’t really any. I’ve cleared a few shelves in the bookcase at the entrance, and eliminated a computer at the OPAC pillar, but it’s not enough, it’s not nice, it’s not visible and students don’t gravitate to it. I have a notice board at the entrance, but it’s not really in the line of sight, and only one wall is not covered with bookshelves.


We have the aforementioned awful leg-sticking-out chairs, a big heavy black leather couch, with a matching big heavy armchair, 6 little Ikea pool chairs, 2 long floor cushions, 2 little Ikea wooden tables and chairs.  Funnily enough, everytime I put down a floor rug (hand-me-downs from home) a new “reading / lounging” zone is created.


Nice that it’s on wheels. Not always fit for purpose in that some of the kindergarten and junior elementary shelving is just too high for the students who are supposed to be using it. Further the dimensions are such that a lot of space is wasted when I put my series “boxes” in, as only two fit per shelf rather than three.

Returns / Circulation / Processing

IMG_0466Returns are plonked into two little red baskets – which overflow in the shortest possible time.

Not enough space around the front desk to form multiple check-out lines without blocking access to library entrance / rest of library.

Not enough space on front desk to even process check-in and check-out – especially when multiple copies are being processed – like the check-in/out of UOI resources.

Not enough space for book processing (cataloguing, stickering, stamping, etc.)

Cupboards behind desk inadequate in size and no doors, so look untidy when they’re not.

Back Office

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not the tidiest person on the planet, but what-a-mess! It’s an office, a dump, a store-room, a place for our literature kits and DVDs, a place for processing, for meetings, for privacy and tears (yes teachers sometimes need to cry, as do students and my office has tissues and sympathy/empathy).

Issues that were, and still remain – no visibility over library when in office, no space at desk to be out of office! No working space in office, too much junk. Not enough planning / writing space.

Meeting table / chair takes up too much space as chairs can’t be tucked underneath. Need space for “pending books” – the one’s I’m reading / reviewing / about to use in lessons. Don’t need big fat filing cabinet.


I’m happy I’ve had a year to be in the space, make the changes I could make, observe how the library is used, consider the problems and what does work before having to consider how I’d like it differently.

Next blog – the design process ….

(here is the completed series of posts:

3 thoughts on “Library redesign – current issues

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