A few weeks ago some colleagues and I were talking about our libraries and how long we had each been in our positions and where we had worked before when we started talking about the changes we all had made when we first walked through the doors of our different library jobs.
Invariably we each first looked around at the physical space and measured the changes we’d make right away usually centering on making the space “ours”. That would mean moving desks, creating bulletin boards, and even changing the arrangement of shelves when they weren’t bolted down to the floor.
It was in mid-discussion that someone asked “what if we were to walk through our doors today – as if we were the brand new librarian. What changes would we make today?
I thought of this as an incredible challenge to take back with me to school the following Monday because while I have made some great changes, I knew that it still wasn’t where I’d like it to be yet.
And so…what if I were just hired - what would I see and what would I change right now to make this library say what I want it to say about learning, teaching, searching, creating, and inviting students and teachers to join in on all those things?
So in unlocking the door on that ‘first’ day and walking around I noticed that the librarian’s desk was sitting in a back room, the shelves were placed in a very neat row but were totally uninspiring, and the chairs are way too big.
Why is this so important in this day and age when we are more often taking the library into the classroom and into other learning spaces. I absolutely applaud this trend and value it as an extension of the physical space we call ‘the library’. But that human need to gather together for social, emotional and educational engagements demands, in my mind, that we create and nurture a space for these activities to take place. The library, with all it’s resources and most importantly, the librarian there to participate as a teacher in those social, emotional, educational and creative pursuits indeed makes the library the most important classroom space in the school.
Our job is to nurture that space in such a way that every time we walk into a classroom to work alongside our teaching colleagues we ‘bring the library’ with us. And when it’s lunch time, or study hall, or tutorial or after school time, students and teachers know that they can congregate in the library to continue their studies, ask the questions, create their presentations, and build their skills with the help and guidance of their librarian.
I’ve started working with a local company to make a new reference desk out in the middle of the room, we’re creating new bulletin board displays; we’re purchasing an interactive whiteboard for easier instruction. These are the first ‘new steps’ we’re taking to make changes to our space. Next up: taking a look at our instruction.
BTW: Anyone want to buy some 1 ½ size chairs?
Connie Williams is a high school librarian and an advocate for school libraries.You can contact her via email, or leave a comment below.