Sunday, November 17, 2013

Reinventing Space

There are lots of reasons why school libraries need to be reinvented. These range from staying relevant in a 1:1 environment to just remaining relevant in general. You would think that we would not have to talk about changing our space to meet the needs of our users. Ultimately that should just be the nature of the beast, but it is always easy to get complacent or bogged down with the idea there just isn't money. But we have to step around these roadblocks and reinvent space that is instructional and engaging.

While there are a lot of advantages to a 1:1 environment, I have to admit the media center often suffers. Most of the schools I visit with 1:1 programs have media centers that are simply unused. Teachers tend to think that the media center means access and when the access is in the hand of every child, access to the media center is no longer needed. What is a media coordinator to do in this situation? At this point, I believe it is to take a closer look at what the physical space of a media center can have to offer. The first of these in my mind is collaborative space. This is definitely limited in the classroom, so how can you create spaces where students can collaborate. Consider seating and computer display options when creating new collaborative space. Use large screen monitors that students can connect their devices to so that they can all work on a project.  Don't be afraid to be creative with the space. I don't consider myself to be a creative person, so I have to really stop and think about how to make things like this happen. If you know you lack that creative gene, ask someone else for help. A different perspective is always beneficial.

Want it to be a space for students? Then ask them what they want. Have them complete a survey. Better yet have a contest to have students provide ideas for library design. Better set some parameters though because their ideas probably have no limits. While that's not a bad thing, you probably want realistic ideas that you can pull from.

There's no doubt we live in a data driven society. Data can sometimes be intimidating but consider making a committee to look at data. Use that data to determine space. Could you use that data to develop makerspaces in your media center?

Enka High School encourages students to "Make Something."

Funding, of course, can be an issue, but give yourself permission to dream big. You can always scale back as you are planning a reinvention of your space. Start small, show how those changes are impacting students, then ask for more money. Consider applying for grants, keep an eye out for contests, put together a wish list and share with stakeholders. You never know unless you ask, but you need to be prepared to market yourself as well. If stakeholders don't see the value, they are not inclined to invest. Sometimes librarians find it hard to toot their own horn, but keep in mind you are doing it for your students.

Be sure to share your library redesign efforts. We all grow from the creative ideas of others.

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