Changing Patterns

For about the last year or so, I have expected that I might be observing some changing behaviors and movement patterns in our library. Our big news is that the long unused and mysterious lower level of our Carnegie Library has been transformed. It is now a sparkling Innovation Center, the home of our school’s new interdisciplinary Entrepreneurial Program. In addition to a super-duper makerspace including 3D printers, laser cutter, CNC machine, poster printer, a kitchen with a PancakeBot (!), a new computer lab and classroom/meeting spaces, we have the more mundane but crucial addition of an elevator for full accessibility to the building and a new stairwell.

As far as I know (please correct me if you can) this is the only Carnegie library on a secondary school campus. The original building follows the model of other Carnegie libraries as conceived by Andrew Carnegie’s assistant James Bertram (Bobinski, 1969), featuring a large circulation desk in the middle of a high-ceilinged room with shelving and reading tables on either side. The first thing a visitor sees upon entering the library is, thus, a librarian.

Exterior of library – there’s the front door.

What you see upon entering the front door. Imagine me sitting at the desk.

Students enter through the front door and climb the staircase to English class.

The second floor houses most of the Upper School English classes. This has been a happy arrangement as far as I’m concerned; almost every Upper School student has had to walk through the front door at least once every day. This makes me very visible and present – I can say “hi,” wish happy birthday, recommend a resource … every student enters the library and may have a moment of interaction with me on a near daily basis.

As part of the renovation of the lower level and the new accessible entrance, there is another way to enter the library space. Students can now enter from a foyer that lets out behind and to the side of where the circulation desk sits in the center of the room, seeing a different view upon entering the library.

New entrance on left, original entrance to right, desk in the center.

View from new stairwell entering library. The images and blurbs tell the history of the library.

The Innovation Center and new entrance have been in use for about two and a half days as of this writing. Contractors are still finishing last touches, and students are still discovering this new space for them. It’s so exciting to be making full use of this gorgeous building in a way that fits so perfectly the library mission. There are so many opportunities for collaboration I can’t even believe it. It’s pretty much what I have hoped that lower level would one day be since I started at Perk eight years ago, and with added accessibility to boot.

Entrance to Innovation Center

Classroom, group meeting, and open work space.

Kitchen, work tables, and machines.

Over the next days, weeks, and months I will be watching, listening, and thinking about these questions:

  • Will the way the students want to use the library change? Does the Innovation Center fit the physical Learning Commons model of the present/future? If so, recognizing that many digital library resources and services will be available from anywhere and embedded in our LMS, including in the Entrepreneurial Program, would the students possibly like their physical library space to be a more traditional reading room?
  • Will noise levels increase or decrease? Does this matter? If so, to whom, and what can be done about it?
  • Will patrons feel welcome when they enter the library from the rear?
  • Is it still the rear if that turns out to be where more folks enter the space?
  • How will the library and Innovation Center spaces fit and work together as a whole? In 2015 I attended ISTE’s annual conference and went to a session lead by Carolyn Foote on Library Design for 1:1 Schools. She brought up NoTosh Lab and their adaptation of Matt Locke’s Six Spaces of Social Media into the Seven Spaces concept of corresponding physical spaces of learning: Secret, Group, Publishing, Performing, Participation, Watching, and Data (NoTosh, 2010). In what ways will the library and Innovation Center together provide these spaces for different types of inquiry-based learning?
  • How can the students see this? Will they be able to articulate it?

It hasn’t even been a week, but I’ve been anticipating the need to be observant and re-evaluate student needs for some time. I foresee opportunities for some design thinking. Thank you Summer Institute 2016!

Has anyone else experienced a change in how students enter or travel through your library? What wisdom can you share?

References

Bobinski, G. S. (1969). Carnegie libraries: Their history and impact on American
public library development. Chicago: ALA.

Foote, C. (Presenter). (2015, June 30). Rethinking library and learning spaces
for 1:1 schools. Lecture presented at ISTE Annual Conference, Philadelphia
Convention Center.

NoTosh. (2010, October 18). The seven spaces of technology in school
environments [Video file]. Retrieved from https://vimeo.com/15945912

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