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American Association of School Librarians 12th National Conference and Exhibition October 6-9, 2005 Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Designing a Facility: Making It a Place Where Every Student Succeeds Gail Formanack

Friday, October 7, 2005 10:00-11:15 A.M. David L. Lawrence Convention Center Room 315/316


Designing a Facility: Making it a place where every student succeeds Presenter: Gail Formanack Supervisor of Library Services Omaha Public Schools 3215 Cuming Street Omaha NE 68131 gail.formanack@ops.org Goal: Identify considerations and steps in designing a library media facility that is conducive for learning. The design process •

Identify the various activities that need to take place in the facility. Consider the space needs for activities such as: o Large group instruction o Study and research o Informal reading and browsing o Story telling (elementary) o Small group work o Computer use o Production o Circulation of materials o Administrative work

Research any facility guidelines or standards that may be in place from your state or other organizations. Do some reading so that you can learn from the successes and/or failures of others.

Tour other library media centers that have been constructed or renovated. Ask questions and take notes.

Work with various stakeholders (administrators, teachers, students, parents) to develop your facility specifications. These should be in writing BEFORE you work with an architect.

Know your parameters in regards to scope of the project, space, money available, etc.

Meet with architect to review and clarify the specifications document prior to the start of actual design.

Review plans with architect and make suggestions for modifications. This may require several meetings. In the event that you are unable to have all


of your requests met, know your non-negotiables and be prepared to make trade-offs. Critical considerations in the design process: • Supervision should be an important factor when determining the location of the circulation desk, shelving, and seating areas. Ask for glass windows in the office area and conference room. •

Traffic flow should be mapped out when determining the placement of the various areas. Avoid placing the instructional area near the entrance since this means all other users would pass through it as they enter or exit.

If the library media center is being built in a new building, try to locate it on the ground floor and in a central location. If the facility will be available extended hours, consider outside access. Location on an outside wall may also allow you to expand the facility some day if more room is needed. Consider having only one public entrance to enhance security and prevent the space from becoming a pass through from one area to another. If a second exit is required for fire code, plan to make it an alarmed emergency exit.

Plan adequate shelving for the collection. Keep stand alone shelving no more than 42” in height so that it does not interfere with supervision. There are guidelines for calculating shelving needs in several of the resources cited in the bibliography.

Plan for adequate technology use. Determine whether your computers will be hard wired or wireless. If hard wired, design your facility with up to 50% more network drops than needed when the facility opens. This will allow flexibility in locating the computers and provide for expansion.

Plan designated space for needed network necessities such as servers, media retrieval systems, television production, etc.

Consider planning a computer lab adjacent to the library media center. However, you may also want to have the lab accessible from the hallway.

The teaching area should have a blackboard or whiteboard and audiovisual screen for presentations.

Carefully consider the type of workspace needed at the circulation desk. The circ desk can be custom made or purchased from a library furnishings vendor. Things to consider: number of staff who will work at this area, adequate electrical, network and phone connections, book return area, height of the counter, storage.


Display space should be abundant. A lockable display case near the entrance is nice for exhibiting books, artifacts, etc. Also plan for wall display areas such as tackable walls so that student work may be displayed. Table or counter type display areas should be available for new materials and seasonal displays.

Storage space should also be abundant. Casework should be included in the circ desk area and office/work area. Plan for adjustable shelves so that both materials and oversize equipment can be accommodated. Include a lockable coat closet area. Include locks on some casework in the circulation area so that materials can be secured when the facility is used after hours.

Carefully consider how you can create an invitational environment that will draw staff and students to the facility. Plan a color scheme for walls, carpeting, woodwork, and furniture that is both appealing and practical.

Evaluate the types of furnishings needed for each activity area. Consider soft seating for your casual reading area. Size, color, materials, and construction of shelving, tables, chairs, dictionary stands, etc. should all be specified in a bid document for furniture vendors.

A combination of natural lighting with other task lighting is desirable. Lights should be zoned so only one area can be dimmed when necessary. Window coverings will be needed if sunlight causes glare on computer screens.

Lessons learned…some dos and don’ts Do consider the ramifications on the acoustics if you plan to have high ceilings. Don’t locate shelving or computers under skylights. Do consider the ramifications of having large windows from the hallway into the library media center. Hallway traffic can be very distracting if adjacent to a story area or instructional space. Do include a sink in the office and/or workroom. Don’t forget to include enough network connections and electrical outlets in all critical areas. Do consider planning for some large flat storage for posters, etc. Don’t design the circulation desk as one flat surface without including a barrier to hide things such as computer cords or a messy work area. Do include enough display spaces. Showcasing student work and promoting library media materials are critical to a program’s success. Do plan to purchase computer furniture that allows for cable management. Don’t neglect to weed the collection before the move.


Sample Specifications: Library Media Center Elementary School Educational specifications for library media center spaces vary significantly depending upon the services expected as part of the program. Some library media centers include a computer lab, classroom, media or TV production area, teacher library and workroom, darkroom, or other special service spaces. The suggested figures below do not include these special spaces. Adjustments would need to be made if a decision is made to include them. Capacity: Guidelines range from 8 – 15% of enrollment as the suggested capacity for the library media center. Square footage: Guidelines again vary. In a building with an enrollment of 500, the library media center should be a minimum of 3,400 square feet to accommodate 75 students. Serving a great number of students would require 42 square feet per student. Activity areas: The library media center should be designed to support the following activities: Entrance, circulation, distribution (400), student seating for storytelling, instruction, study and research (2050), office (150), 2 conference areas (300), equipment and materials storage (500) Location: The library media center should be located on the first floor in a central location near an entrance for community and after school access. It should be easily accessible from all classrooms and handicap accessible. Learning activities: Spaces for learning activities should include: a presentation area where at least one class can be seated to view a visual presentation; a storytelling area; an instruction area; small group conference and discussion areas; computer research and production area; quiet study area; browsing and reading areas. All student areas should be planned to be visible from the circulation desk area for visual control purposes. Learning aids and equipment: A great variety of learning aids and equipment are required for the library media center. Sturdy tables and chairs and other furniture must be available and suitable for different age groups. Shelving should be adjustable with backing for wall shelving and partitions for double-faced units. Wall shelving should be 60� high while freestanding units should be no more than 42� high. Appropriate tables for computers should be provided (one computer for every four student users). All computers must be wired into the building network, and telephone and cable lines should also be available. Sufficient electrical outlets are also required. Storage and other needs: An ample variety of storage spaces for student materials, equipment, and professional materials are needed. Carts for hauling books and equipment are essential. File cabinets, secure areas for computer equipment, office and workroom space are essential. A sink should be included in a work area along with cupboards and drawer space. Other considerations: Carpeting is essential for sound control. Lighting is an important factor, and it should be planned to accommodate projection devices and the various activities going on throughout the facility.


Suggested Readings Anderson, Cynthia. District Library Administration: A Big Picture Approach. Worthington, OH: Linworth, 2005. Barron, Daniel D. “School Library Media Facilities Planning: Physical and Philosophical Considerations.” School Library Media Activities Monthly 28.1 (2001) : 48-50. Baule, Steve. “Developing Bid Specifications for Facilities Projects.” Knowledge Quest 31.1 (2002) : 14-17. Baule, Steven M. Facilities Planning For School Library Media & Technology Centers. Worthington, OH: Linworth, 1999. Erikson, Rolf and Carolyn Markuson. Designing a School Library Media Center for the Future. Chicago: American Library Association, 2001. Johnson, Doug. "Designing Digital Schools for Analog People." Doug Johnson's personal home page. Oct. 2000. 25 Aug. 2005 <http://www.dougjohnson.com/handouts/dessch.pdf>.  Lenk, Mary Anne. “FAQs about Facilities: Practical Tips for Planning Renovations and New School Library Media Centers.” Knowledge Quest 31.1 (2002) : 27-31.

Prepared for American Association of School Librarians Conference, Pittsburgh October, 2005


Designing Facility