We are fortunate here in Brisbane Catholic Education in that almost every school has a library. This space, whether it is a state of the art, architect designed, contemporary I-Centre or a converted classroom made warm and welcoming with paint, cushions and a few comfy chairs provides not just an area to house books and resources, but a space where just about anything is possible!
Although the traditional role of the library as the source of information has changed in the age of Google, every school still needs one (preferably well staffed with qualified, passionate teacher librarians and library technicians!). Libraries are the hub of a school – a third space, away from the pressures students can feel in the classroom and on the sports fields, where they can choose to work or play, where they can investigate or read for leisure, where they can meet friends or just be alone – it is a place of choice, as well as a space which provides not only access to books and physical resources, but increasingly to other collections such as realia, maker tools, new technologies and expert advice on how to navigate increasingly complex online worlds. While students (and teachers) may have a world of information via the smartphone in their pocket, the library is the place where they can go to find out just how to make the best of this trove, and to get tips and tricks to access databases, online journals and a range of other ‘deep web’ resources.
Recently, I was fortunate to be taken on a tour of the beautiful new Beanland Memorial Library at Brisbane Girls Grammar by the Director of Information Services Mrs Kristine Cooke, as she shared her wisdom about the development of the building and the value of the library within the school.
This video charts the progress of this amazing space:
The library is merely months old, and many of the ‘ways of working’ have yet to be finalised. However as Kris shared, its many small spaces are already being embraced by the girls of the school, who keenly await her arrival at 7am to open the doors of the library, and who must be ‘pushed out the doors’ when it closes at 5pm. Why, when the information they seek could easily be accessed from elsewhere, is this space so popular?
Is it because of the multitude of seating types available for different working styles? The inspiring artworks that decorate the space? The gorgeous curving stairwells that led the girls to nickname the library ‘Hogwarts’? Well yes, all of these elements appeal – but they are not the whole story. It is also because the atmosphere of this library is welcoming and safe. The inner city location and high academic expectations of the school definitely play a part, however walking into the space, it is also clear that thought has been given to the ‘feel’ of the library. Kris and her library staff obviously have a passion for providing a haven for students that goes beyond providing a space strictly for learning, and that passion provides a space for comfort and leisure as well as hard work; an environment that makes you want to broaden your horizons, just as the large glass windows broaden the view into the beautiful fig tree outside.
The Brisbane Girls Grammar Library has a budget larger than most; but a similar atmosphere can be achieved with far less investment.
This slideshare has a wide range of simple ideas to rethink and redesign your space.
For more inspiration, check out this fantastic Pinterest Board compiled by Associate Professor Hilary Hughes, who leads the Designing Spaces for Learning subject as part of the QUT Master of Education course.
Libraries are far more than a home for dusty shelves of books; share your actual or dream library ideas in the comments.