A vertical library

On Monday I attended a meeting with the architects who are designing the refurbishment of our existing years 9-12 campus into a P-5 campus. As I understand it this was the first time the architects had met with actual teachers (previous meetings were with administration) but the plans they shared had been drawn up for more than two years.

The architect started with a qualifier – they don’t normally leave it so late to consult with teachers but in this case the constraints were so restrictive they needed to draw up plans before consultation (or words to that effect). The constraints include: the tight dimensions of the site as a whole, the heritage-listed mansion which is the main building, and limited budget (compared to that for the new building on our other campus).

As head of library I am naturally most interested in what they have planned for the library so I was very disappointed to discover … nothing! There is an existing library for the year 9-12 students and that is exactly what they have in place for the P-5 students. It seems they are happy to stick with a known known and just make it fit the new circumstances.

The existing library

I’ve spent the last few days floating around a few different ideas. All but two of the classrooms will be housed in a newer adjacent building. I’ve come up with the concept of a vertical library that would operate in the break-out spaces provided for classrooms on two levels, have teacher resources and library workroom on a third level and retain one section of the existing library for a more traditional reading area. The classrooms not located in the newer building are for the youngest students in prep – the reading area would contain everything they would need on a visit. We would move resources about so that they matched the current inquiry topics and library staff, through involvement in planning, would be working in the appropriate area when the resources are being accessed. It’s very early days in the thinking for how this would play out in practical terms but the intent makes complete sense to me – locating resources (physical, online and human) where the children are instead of segregated in a separate space seems logical. You can see the basic idea in these pictures:

Level 1

Level 2

Level 3

I’ve drawn and written about my ideas in bright pink texta on a photocopy of the plans and submitted it as part of the feedback process. Let’s hope that even if my idea isn’t what eventuates the idea is enough to spur the architects on to some more creative thinking about how a library is used as a learning space in the context of the primary years.


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