School systems nationwide are transforming their library media centers to support 21st century learning more effectively. The modern school library is a dynamic learning hub where students are creating, collaborating, and learning essential 21st century skills.
As you’re creating your own school library of the future, here are some ideas from other schools to inspire you.
Hursey Montessori School creates a modern school library
South Carolina’s Charleston County School District has been systematically redesigning its school library spaces to meet the needs of today’s students more effectively.
“The physical space should match the kinds of learning that students experience in the classroom,” says Christy Wegmann James, library media services specialist for the 50,000-student district. “We want students to be able to communicate and collaborate to solve problems. Our library spaces need to be flexible enough to support a variety of student activities, such as independent reading and research, collaborative learning, and creation.”
As part of this initiative, the districts transformed the library at Malcolm C. Hursey Montessori School in February 2019 with help from School Specialty.
Before, Hursey’s library looked like the traditional library you’d see in schools everywhere a generation ago. “It had old, blocky tables and no soft seating options,” James says. “And the shelving blocked users’ lines of sight.”
The old space wasn’t conducive to rich, dynamic, 21st-century learning and exploration. In contrast, the new design creates distinct areas for multiple kinds of learning to occur: a makerspace, a story time area, and an instructional space.
The instructional space is furnished with tables on casters, so they can easily be moved around and configured in multiple ways to support student collaboration. “Every time I walk in, they’re set up in different ways,” James observes. “That’s the way it’s supposed to work. The space is more functional now, supporting many different types of activities.”
In addition, there are now plenty of soft seating options throughout the library. “The space is inviting,” James says. “It encourages students to collaborate, and also to relax and read.”
To learn more about the Hursey library’s transformation, click here.
Kranz Junior High’s library stands out
When you step inside the new Eugene Kranz Junior High School building in Dickinson, Texas, one of the first things you notice is the giant Space Shuttle replica on the wall in the foyer—a nod to the school’s namesake, who served as a flight director for NASA’s Gemini and Apollo programs.
But as you continue to look around, something else unique catches your eye: The library is also located in this large open space.
Bookshelves stand in neat rows along the school’s main corridor. Soft seating with built-in electrical outlets gives students a comfortable place to sit and read, or simply hang out and talk. It’s not uncommon to see students sitting and working on digital devices, or huddled around café-style tables and collaborating on projects.
“We wanted the library to be a focal point, instead of being stuck in the corner of the building somewhere,” says Jim Rubach, executive director for facility planning and construction for the Dickinson Independent School District.
Students pass by this interactive space as they travel to class, and they’re more likely to drop in and take advantage of its resources. What’s more, the soft seating options make it an inviting place to congregate and share ideas.
“We wanted teachers to bring their classes here, and we wanted students to be able to relax—not sit in hard wooden chairs,” Rubach says. “We wanted the library to be a place they’d like to come.”
To learn more about Kranz Junior High School and its unique modern library space, click here. And for further advice on designing a school library space that meets your 21st century learning goals, download our free guide “Designing a Modern School Library” today.
Christina Counts, PhD
Dr. Christina Counts is a proven leader with a successful background in transforming learning spaces. Dr. Counts has worked in education for over 17 years with experience as a classroom teacher, district instructional leader, school administrator, and digital and innovative learning designer. As the Director of Design and Development for School Specialty, Christina leads a team of professionals that not only offer complete turnkey modernization solutions for schools, but also design and deliver professional development to support districts making the transition to a flexible, collaborative, student-centered learning space.
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