I have received numerous requests since last August to provide an update on the library design project at my last school, Chattahoochee High. Though the district budget and architects did not allow for all the design elements on my wish list, the finished makeover definitely took the space to a whole new level. Below is a presentation on the design elements I wanted; I created this presentation in response to the initial design plan that was presented last February:
While all my ideas didn’t make the final cut, our media coordinator and my principal went to bat for our library space and persuaded the district design team to implement many of my design changes to the original plan. In addition, I am thrilled lots of Steelcase product made the final cut!
My friend and fellow English teacher Briana Harrison was kind enough to send me these photos last fall of the newly renovated space.
As you can see, the space is more open, brighter, and student-friendly. Instead of heavy, dark drab furniture, the space is now filled with furniture designed for active learning experiences and is so much lighter and brighter! It is like night and day from the dark, drab space I lived in for a year and that was so very difficult to use for teaching and learning. This space is now designed to be more than a study hall; it is welcoming to many kinds of learning experiences.
I am proud of what I contributed to the design of the space and all the hard work that I, my assistant Carol Olson, and our parent volunteers did with the weeding project, the packing up of materials, and other prep work that went into making this space a reality. Of course, there are additional design elements I would have worked to incorporate had I stayed on for another year, but the renovations that were completed over the summer were truly transformative and remarkable.
Staff were asked to reflect on the impact of the renovation; Ms. Harrison was gracious enough to share her reflections with me about the new and improved library space:
The old media center was useful as a space for students to spread out and work; however, that’s about where the usefulness ended. The outdated style and limited flexibility to personalize learning that the old media center offered was not always conducive for my students to learn and collaborate effectively.
The new media center invigorates my students. From the bright colors to the various seating and collaboration spaces, my students feel like they can accomplish so much more from this new space. I am able to individualize learning in this new space: students can work collaboratively in the new study rooms with options to work on white boards or use their tablets to project on the tvs; other students can work individually in the new chairs with desk space; there is even a space for me to work with small groups while the rest of the class is focused on other work. We love our new space to work and learn!
I am thankful for the opportunities I’ve had to learn about library redesign over the last four years in both Gwinnett and Fulton County School Districts. I’ve learned so much, especially from my friends and colleagues Jennifer Lund and Holly Frilot. These experiences have truly impacted the way I think about libraries and challenged me to think about what constitutes meaningful library programming in different schools and learning communities, especially when the role of media specialist here in Georgia is being co-opted into something entirely different than what most media specialists would prefer. Though I’m not around to enjoy the renovated spaces I contributed to, I am thankful that students and teachers have the opportunity to benefit from the vision and design work that I helped lead and implement.
What a gorgeous space. How do Georgia media specialists see their roles changing? Are these changes dependent on schools, or is there a state-wide push to morph the librarian role into something else?
There is no leadership statewide and has not been for years. Everything is local–depending on where you are, it may be driven within individual buildings by principals with widely varying expectations. In other cases, it may be driven by someone at the district level (who may or may not be the media coordinator) who is pushing the media specialist into a role that is primarily tech in an effort to show the media specialists are “current” and valuable while the instructional and literacy pieces go by the wayside. Some principals don’t want collaboration–they just use the media center as holding pens for overflow/overcrowded lunch periods, glorified study halls, meeting spaces, and/or someone to manage STUFF–lab schedules, students, equipment, etc.
Thanks for this explanation. I wish I could say that this was an entirely unfamiliar situation.