Friday, January 20, 2012



A high school somewhere else in Alabama is getting a new library. I was tickled they asked me for my pie-in-the-sky vision of a school library space. These are my suggestions:


If there is a single thing I would emphasize, it’s having many more electrical outlets than you think you might ever need. The furniture with it built-in is great, but have it in the floorboard and the floors (in the middle of the space) as well.

Depending on the local Internet setup, I would go ahead and request an equivalently excessive number of drops. Wired networks are always faster than wireless networks. If yours is the rare wireless network than can support a huge number of concurrent connections, think about using them for bring-your-own-device access to a guest partition and using a wired connection for school machines.

I would include a minimum of three mounted data projectors, considering the size of the school and library. This would allow for a variety of configurations for instruction and virtual fieldtrips and other activities.

While I love as much natural light as is possible in the space, I do think all windows need to have shades for projection.


In probably the biggest shift in thinking in the decade since our own facility was constructed, I believe seating really needs to be modular and not fixed. 

I also think there should be areas where students can spread out at tables as well as areas with really comfortable, nap-inducing furniture. Some libraries are getting furniture from Ikea, and I can’t help but notice how one particular library vendor’s chairs looked as if they were plucked straight out of DWR.


Alcoves where students and teachers can talk and collaborate in small groups are going to be increasingly important.

Libraries need a “quiet space,” a place where devices and electronics are discouraged and students can concentrate. I think this sort of disconnectivity will become an increasing luxury.

Library configuration

Computers should be integrated in the stacks, and any lab areas should not be divided out with doors or partitions.

When labs are an element of the library, I love a theater set-up facing away from the stacks.

Dedicated OPACS should not requiring login, and it’s a good idea to have them at the circulation desk for student guidance. I prefer big circulation desks, with lots of space behind them, more like reference desks than circulation counters. I think having a bustling desk reflects a sense of community ownership for the library, which can also be accomplished by having as many dedicated spaces as possible for student workers, parent volunteers, and teachers on their planning time.

In this day and age, you really need special laboratory-type areas with scanners, digital cameras, green screens, and other equipment for student authorship. Those can require special furniture and connections. If you wanted to go all out, you could include gaming areas and recording studios like Chicago Public Library’s YouMedia, the ultimate YA laboratory.


Consider interfiling nonfiction and genre-izing fiction. Unifying materials types in one place in nonfiction requires a great extend of shelving which reads as uninterrupted, while dividing fiction into genres can be served by a smaller shelving units. Those are just two trends in organization to bear in mind. 

I can't wait to see what they come up with and hope I will be able to visit!

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