on #macgyverlibrarianship part deux…

I love my job! If I were someone who didn’t love job job quite as much as I love mine, I might know that as of the time that I click “publish” on this post, there are two weeks and 36 hours between me and the start of my summer break! Since, however, I love my job so much, I don’t really keep track of these things. You know how it is. I get into that cataloging flow state. Time flies by. I dive into the Dewey manuals engrossed in the joy of number building (and, you know, that satisfaction of building just that right call number to the 9th decimal place…), then I look up and think, “Oh my goodness, summer already? I’m going to miss everybody!” before I leave campus longing for more time that we can share in the library together.


Last year at about this time I posted about coming across the very cool things librarians were doing in the #macgyverlibrarianship movement. While I realize that my library space has a lot going for it and, indeed, many librarians would kill to trade spaces with me, I always seem to want more. Our library is well supported by our school administration, but the costs associated with running a library on an island 2500 miles away from free Demco shipping (poor HI and AK always get treated like Cinderella, the poor step-sister who has to pay unbelievable shipping fees to her step-parent) means that there isn’t a lot of room in the budget for the “nice to haves” that we all want in our libraries. As a result, my staff and I have accepted the challenge and we’ve turned making our space feel loved while stretching our budget as far as it can possibly be stretched as our personal challenge.

Here’s What We’ve Been Up To!

I’ve been taking a really interesting AASL online course called Making Your Library Epic: Creating Innovative Spaces for Student Learning with instructor Diana Rendina. This quick 3-week course is taking us through the process of evaluating our spaces and planning ways that we can support learning in our library spaces. Her Renovated Learning Blog is full of wonderful resources ranging from building maker culture in your library to grant writing and finding sources of funding. It is well worth a look. She has plans to offer the course again in the future, but does not have exact dates yet. There is a link to subscribe to her newsletter if you think you might be interested in future course offerings.

One of our activities (that I started but didn’t finish) was to create a scaled floor plan of our library space in order to be able to virtually explore layouts for shelving and furniture. As it turned out, my library had so many random angles that I, unfortunately, gave up before completing the task.

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Really, dude? What’s with all these angles? If we could just straighten out these walls, I could probably have 4 study rooms in that space rather than three!

Along the way, however, I did discover an inexpensive iPhone app called RoomScan Pro that allowed me to hold my phone to each wall of a room after which the app mapped the space. If you have even a slightly more rationally shaped library than I, it might be a great option if you are interested in experimenting with layouts in your library space virtually before moving heavy things in real life.


We’d been hoping to get funding to reupholster the chairs in our library teaching space. Unfortunately, other things around school needed to be prioritized so we weren’t able to outsource the work. We found some 10 oz “canvas duck cloth” at a local fabric store, broke out a staple gun, our sharp scissors (the ones my library assistant refuses to loan out to students or non-library staff. LOL!), and a yard stick, then set about re-covering the chairs that were making us feel sad and depressed.


Before: #Sad #Shudder!


After: #Happy #Yay!


The day I was “ninja librarian.” Kids could only see me if I wanted them to see me. #FashionChoicesMatter

It is amazing what you can learn to do with eHow and Youtube. Just over $250 of fabric and about a thousand, two-hundred staples (I used a box and a half) allowed us to cover 30 chairs (including the purchase of other colors of fabric that we purchased to see how they looked on the chairs). Because we weren’t able to get enough blue to finish all of the chairs (again, it’s a freaking island…), two-thirds of them are blue and a third are EXTREMELY ORANGE!!! I actually like the mix and pop that the orange gives to our very drab institutional gray walls.

Sew What?

We had quite a bit of leftover black duck cloth from our color sample experiments and we found a sewing machine in another department on campus so our multi-talented library assistant, Anne, went to work giving new life to two office chairs that had, indeed, seen better days. IMG_8610


Yes, this probably should have been discarded a while ago, but kids seemed to be able to see past the disgustingness and see down to its “inner beauty.” This chair and its equally ugly sibling are much loved and coveted seating. They were, however, hidden away in a FAR OUT OF THE WAY study room never seen by visitors–not unlike Cinderella herself…


One thing to keep in mind if you use a sewing machine and work with a much younger librarian like I do, when the sewing machine starts to run she just might squeal with delight and declare, “I’ve never, ever seen a sewing machine actually working in real life!!!” On top of that, after being shown how this mysterious machine works and doing some sewing herself, she may call both her mom and her grandmother to inform them of her professional growth (looking at you @nikilibrarian) for the day.

As her supervisor, I generously offered to show her how to use a telephone with a rotary dial sometime, but she, claims to already know how to do that…

Chalking it up to experience…

For a long while now, I have hated… HATED!!! … the way that our gigantic circ desk at the front of the library looks. At some point, AISL librarian Tiffany Whitehead, who tweets as @librarian_tiff, posted a picture of her circ desk that had been adorned with chalkboard paint. I tweeted her with some questions and she kindly sent along a link to her post describing the process – Chalkboard Paint Circ Desk & Word Cloud. I ran out to my local Home Depot and purchased primer, chalkboard paint, and painting supplies, then I totally chickened out and returned everything.

The idea of an enormous expanse of black paint at the front of my library took more courage, daring, and guts than I possess so I decided to try chalkboard contact paper to give the concept a lower risk trial run. To my way of thinking, with contact paper, if it’s ugly you peel it off and throw it away. There are many types of vinyl chalkboard paper available. I decided on Versachalk Self Adhesive Contact Paper because it was the first one listed that had free shipping on Amazon Prime (Yes, sometimes I just pick stuff because it is the first link on the results list as evaluating EVERYTHING in life is really exhausting–even for librarians!!!).


Before: #Sad


After: #Happy! #Yay! Our resident artist, @Nikilibrarian, doing her thing…



To break up the black we purchased some Chalk by Blik circles that I learned about from AISL librarian @AlyssaMandel. We cut them up and used them to break up the expanse of black a bit and to highlight the book return that nobody ever seems to notice. It makes me happy every time I walk into the library!

What Kind of Accent is That?

I discussed getting the library painted with our campus facilities crew. The process would involve boxing my entire collection and closing the library so a major repainting job doesn’t look like it will happen in the near future.

Me [Thinking]: “Hmmm… The gray is ugly, but it isn’t ugly enough to make me want to box this whole collection. Well maybe it would be worth it if we could get the carpet replaced at the same time. When they throw carpeting into this deal, we might be in business!!! For now, though, the gray is gonna be gray.”

It’s funny, but gray doesn’t look quite as gray as you thought after you learn that boxing your collection is part of the deal for getting rid of it. I’m considering, therefore, some ways to add friendly color to the library just by painting some accent walls. Though it requires a free registration, Benjamin Moore has a fun Design Your Own Room tool that will let you upload a picture and see what different colored paint will look like without getting actual paint all over your work aloha shirts.

We are currently duking it out over what color we should try on the wall behind our circ desk and could use your impartial input. We’d love to hear your thoughts on some colors we’re considering!

I personally like Fresh Lime, but I’m not a dictator so I’m keeping an open mind about other colors–even the inferior, uglier ones…


Our current institutional gray

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The beautifully intense and amazing, Fresh Lime

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The contending, Paradise Valley Green

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Slightly less beautiful, but still attractive Killala Green

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Zzzzz… Shore House Green. Meh…

We want your honest, impartial opinions without, you know, undue influence so please hit reply below and tell us what you think.

But especially if it’s the absolutely lovely Fresh Lime… 

It’s the home stretch to the end of our school year. Finish strong, but remember to have fun and enjoy it. Life’s too short not to!

22 thoughts on “on #macgyverlibrarianship part deux…

  1. David, I back you on the Fresh Lime; it goes with the green around the check-in slot and adds a modern spark to your space. I agree about the vibrant intensity! Paradise Valley rates a second place. Good luck! It’s looking revitalized!

  2. David-your comments about shipping costs and supplies remind me of my days in libraries on Guam where I measured success in teaspoons. I do like the Fresh Lime but Killala Green is also bright and refreshing. You’ve given me some ideas and inspiration. I may try to perk up my beast of a circulation desk too! Mahalo!!

  3. Fresh Lime for sure! I like how it ties in with the design on the front of your desk.
    Love your #macgyverlibrarianship!

  4. Dave,
    Your posts always make me laugh which is really important in the middle of May! In fact, I am a Dave Wee-post-reading groupie. When you finish loving being a librarian, library decorator, and MacGyver library impersonator you could write humor for a living. The possibilities are endless! Your future is bright!

    Thank you for your post!

  5. The Fresh Lime is gorgeous, but speaking as the person who had her library painted Lemon Meringue last year (so, citrus colors, unite!!) I would encourage you to think about a few things:

    1) What are your school colors? Branding your library so that it ties into other areas and colors of the school gives a sense of unity;
    2) Is the potential wall color repeated elsewhere in the library (ideally in upholstery and art for a few different venues)?
    3) If it’s a bold color, does your upholstery and artwork tame it by providing a counterpoint on the color wheel? (Our other school color is navy, which we used for the majority of our upholstered furniture in different shades, peppering in a smattering of…wait for it….lime!)

    Good luck with all your updates and creativity!!!!

    • Hi Courtney,
      Love your advice! We have some cray, cray color things happening in this space of mine. Our school colors are green and white. Our shelving, though, is (so 70s that it is actually cool again) orange; the upholstery on chairs on the main floor of the library are maroon; and the walls in our collaboration rooms are blue and orange. I know that it makes our space sound rather “clown-like,” but the spaces are, basically, separate rooms so in real life it isn’t quite as disturbing as it sounds as I describe it here. As I’m looking at the space now, I’m realizing that orange is actually the color that recurs through all of the varied zones as it’s on the circ desk, in the collaboration rooms, and on our shelves. Hmmm… Now you have me re-thinking things! Aaauuuggghhh!!! LOL!!!

      Mandarine Orange?: https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B2RbAE4e-LaxbDBHWk5JOWF6Uk0

      Orange Juice?: https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B2RbAE4e-LaxYnhBdHNQTl9VS2s

      My library assistant, who sits right in front of the wall is kind of afraid of the thought of orange. LOL!

    • Post pics, please! I’d love to see what it looks like. I think you might have to post them someplace and post links here as I don’t think we can add images to comments.

  6. Thanks David for reminding us that we can change our library spaces. I just added industrial wheels to our couches, which is a small step, but so freeing.


  7. Hi Dave,

    Try a blue close to the one in the blik circles that you have there.
    From the Benjamin Moore colors, try Blue Lapis or Summer blue.
    These might be ‘off’ but a blue might tie everything together better.
    Just a thought.
    Fantastic ideas. Keep em’ comin’!!! 🙂


  8. I like the summer blue or the blue lapis. They feel warmer.
    I’d be curiuos to see what others think.
    It’s calming, bright but not too much and it is more cordinated.

    Just my two cents worth. 🙂

  9. Why stop at one color? Put some sky blue on that pillar…paint a fresh lime TREE on top of that…with some birds in it…reading books. Attach some 3M adhesive hooks and paint them to blend in, then you can decorate the tree throughout the year.

  10. I’m in the beginnings of doing a remodel for my Library. This summer we are changing the circulation desk, where some computers are located and creating a relaxed seating area with new furniture. In the fall, I want to add some more color and better signage. Thanks for your great post and everyone who replied, I have another notebook filled with great ideas! Thank you, Dave and everyone!

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