on rethinking library spaces and falling in love …

I love libraries. Even before I became a librarian, I loved libraries.

I think that it is probably a pretty good bet that, as librarians, most of you who are reading this post probably love libraries.  So … Why is that?

I’ve been thinking a lot, lately, about exactly that.  What made us fall in love?

I grew up in a not-poor-but-nothing-leftover-at-the-end-of-the-month-either family in Honolulu.  Back in the day before the forces of globalization brought about the phenomenon of buying clothes at Costco without trying them on, all of the people in town who could afford to, shopped at a local department store called Liberty House.  I don’t think my mom got to shop at Liberty House often, but I remember my mom having a treasured Liberty House shopping bag that she kept folded in the trunk of our Dodge Dart.  Every week, we would go to the library and I got to fill the white shopping bag with the pink and gold LH lettering with books from MY library and somewhere along the line, I fell in love with the library.

But why? Why does one fall in love?

I loved the smell (Which, I learned in library school, was probably caused by mold spores and horrendously bad for us and for the collection). I loved the cool mountain breeze that blew through the louvered windows (Yes, it was open-air in tropical Honolulu … Great for growing mold spores!). I loved the gold painted security bars at the front door. I loved the sound the book drop made when you returned books. I loved the four-year old me-sized tables with the colorful plastic disk seats, and I loved the four-year old me-sized pencils that I got to use to write my name on the book cards in the pockets in the backs of the books I borrowed. I loved it all.

I loved how it looked.

I loved how it smelled.

I loved how it felt.

And I loved who I got to be when I was in the library …

Now that I am a librarian, I’m not quite sure if the kids that I serve love my library. We get a lot of traffic, but I’m not sure if they love the library or if they just love our wifi. Hmmm …

So here is my horrendously, deeply buried lede …

One of our two major classroom buildings will be undergoing a complete renovation over the course of the next school year.  By necessity our four-year old library will be reconfigured to house our entire collection, students studying and working during free periods, our library classes, AND six temporary classroom spaces.  It’s not a perfect situation by any stretch of the imagination, yet, it IS a truly wonderful gift to have the opportunity to rethink our existing library space and figure out how we want to reinvent it.  In time, our classroom building will be renovated and the classes will move out.  What should our space look like, then?  What should it feel like? What should it sound like? As I see it, the possibilities are boundless.

So … If this were your space, what would you do? How do we help our kids fall in love with their library? And their libraries to be?

After attending an incredible presentation by Honolulu teacher, Amy Burvall, on vlogging (video blogging) at the Schools of the Future Conference 2013  in Honolulu, I decided to take a shot.  It’s far from perfect. It’s a librarian with shaky hands running around for 5 minutes with an iPad, but it’s fun.  Hope you like it, but most of all, I hope to HEAR from you! Please click on the links in the video and share your ideas!



6 thoughts on “on rethinking library spaces and falling in love …

  1. Ok. Stop right there. (1) I love that you love libraries. (2) I love that you used Mozilla’s Popcorn Maker for your video. (3) I LOVE THAT YOUR BOSS IS WEARING A COOKIE MONSTER COSTUME! I hope that’s a daily occurrence and not just for Halloween. I hope you find that the addition of six temporary classes in your library creates opportunities for impromptu collaboration. I look forward to following your journey. Blog about it.

    • Thanks, Melanie! The video was so jumpy that I thought about re-shooting it, except that middle school kids in Halloween costumes doing research and working in a library was so … MIDDLE SCHOOL … that I just went with it because it felt like our library. I’m working on getting over the “if I can’t do it perfectly, I’m not going to publish” thing. I really hope the opportunities for more collaboration come about! It is one of the main reasons for going with glass walls. If we can see, we can learn! To quote one of characters from The Last Emperor, “I’m a spy and I don’t care who know it!” LOL!

  2. I LOVE this video; thanks for sharing your space. Now I have a major case of library envy.

    Are there any students on your re-design / planning committee? Getting their input at the planning stage is invaluable…

    • Thanks, Claire. Great idea! Word about the renovation project came down so fast that we haven’t gotten very far past the shock of, “Wait … What? There’ll be six classrooms in here?” phase. The 6 classrooms, though, include one space that I didn’t catch in the video. You’re comment just gave me an idea for a fun video editing project that i can get my 7th graders working on down the road! Thanks!

  3. O.k. I have GOT to get my video-on. I need help as well as I have been charged with re-imagining our entire library space and program to move it forward, possibly into an entirely new (to me) building, one built in 1910 with 1910 design issues to contend with. So I watched your video and I have more questions than answers. This is the story of my life right now. I wonder if all 6 classrooms have to be contained within walls? Could a class take place in a communal place in the library where others could learn from what was being presented as well? If your classes do a lot of collaborative work in small groups, could you take an atrium area and create learning “clusters” with moveable white boards to define work spaces? I would let the school take your existing computer lab and ask them to trick it out with every conceivable tool and then leave it with you to invite classes in to use on a rotating basis, think prototype “21st century classroom” (I have got to get friendly with a thesaurus to move beyond the 21st century phrase, sorry!). How do your teachers teach best? How do your kids learn best? How can you guys offer 6 spaces where this can take place…and then some of those concepts be incorporated into your library program once the building is finished and the formal classes move out?

  4. Really, David, that is your work space? And you are renovating. I’m so jealous. It is lovely now. But, I understand. I did comment. I love your post and that you are so tech savvy that I have no idea what you did with the video and am very irritated that I need you to send me an email explaining it all in detail. haha.

    We are going to be renovating as well. We have a plan in place, but the architect has a very difference vision, but happily, that will be a good thing as we have some structural problems with our library that the architect is seeking to fix. I am hoping that once we can see a plan, we can bring kids, teachers and staff on to talk about design.


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