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These six tips can transform your library into a school-wide destination.

 

The campus library is hallowed ground. Amazing, even miraculous things happen here. It’s a haven for curious minds, a palace where passions are unlocked, and an endzone where information is tackled.

Sadly, it’s also a space that can go underused and taken for granted. Today, traditional school libraries are seeing a dramatic drop in use. Both students and staff have more and more resources available to them — tablets, Chromebooks, e-readers, SMART Boards, etc. — and they’re visiting the library less and less.

So how do we get more use out of these cherished spaces? Simply stated, we let them evolve. The library (or media center or learning center) should be a main attraction on its campus, enticing kids of all ages and personalities to explore, collaborate, and engage — but dull, cluttered, and underutilized areas are anything but user friendly. Could your library use a pick me up? Read on for six tips to transform your library into a beacon for the whole campus.

1. Shake it up. Shuffling furniture and revamping display areas can give any library a facelift and help you create an open, inviting atmosphere. Break up long rows of bookshelves by scattering innovative displays among them. Create open areas for flexible seating, where collaboration can occur within pairs, quads, or larger groups. Accommodate student preferences with a variety of seating choices and meeting spaces. Soft or hard? Low or high? Stationary or rocking? Aim for a wide selection of easily rearranged choices.

2. Donate it. Removing clutter starts with the library’s collection. Books and materials that are irrelevant or haven’t gotten checked out since bell bottoms were en vogue — the first time — aren’t attracting anything but dust. Pare down your collection and remove extra shelves to open up more space to move and think.

3. Primp your walls. Consider a cost affective makeover, like a new coat of paint or fresh, vibrant artwork. Brightening dull walls will breathe life into the library. If your budget is nonexistent, consider asking for donations of paint and supplies from local businesses or asking individual classes or clubs to help spruce up the walls.

4. Make it interactive. Top global companies have interactive spaces in their offices for employees to connect, have fun, and tinker. Take a page from their books and set up your own whiteboard walls, digital displays, or even a Makerspace, a hands-on area for students to build and experiment with Legos or K’nex, coding tools, a 3D printer, or other construction materials.

5. Get with the times. It’s critical for libraries and media centers to be up to speed with current tech needs. Power outlets and device chargers should be plentiful and easily accessed. Set up multiple charging stations, which become gathering stations for students and teachers to charge and go. When it comes to technology in general, stay open to change. If you have a logistical snag — whether you want to collect data to track library use, monitor student computer screens from one location, organize how teachers book the computer lab, stop students from using library printers to create collages of Taylor Swift, whatever — there’s likely a digital tool that can help you achieve your goal with minimum stress and maximum efficiency.

6. Team up. Librarians and teachers should communicate curricular goals so that the library becomes an extension of the classroom. When this occurs, kids are able to expand on their projects or work to clench classroom standards in ways not available to them during the confines of a class period. Teachers can share their goals and lesson plans with librarians; librarians can communicate how different library resources can connect to and expand classroom curricular goals.

While libraries are a revered tradition, they have always been centers for learning to expand, transform, and multiply. Keep your library alive as a vibrant 21st-century campus hub with a few tweaks and a lot of imagination.

 

Looking for more literary inspiration? Ms. Library has some suggestions!

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