Excellent school library media centers require excellent programs, staff, materials, and facilities. (The Maine School Library Facilities Handbook)

push a diskSchool library media centers should be a focal point of their school and community. The center’s design should be aesthetically fitting: create attractive and inviting space for students, teachers, and the community.

The center’s design should match the functions of the library media program. Useful space will meet the evolving needs of the school library media program.

Well designed school library media centers are attractive and inviting and have a positive effect on usage, student behavior, and the learning that occurs . . . (Erikson & Markuson, 2001)

eye means readRead Creating Library Spaces: Libraries 2040. IFLA Council and General Conference by Rob Bruijnzeels, Aug. 2002. (PDF document) This paper suggests that by 2040 the traditional public libraries will have ceased to exist and new, attractive future libraries will have taken their place. The Libraries 2040 project of the Netherlands is initiating seven different libraries of the future.

Read Some Design Considerations When Building or Remodeling a Media Center by Doug Johnson, 1998.

eye means readRead The Shape of Tomorrow by Debra Lau in School Library Journal, Mar. 2002; 48(3), 57. (Access requires login) A cadre of talented architects is redesigning school libraries to boost student learning.

Skim Gotham’s Grand Vision by Debra Lau in School Library Journal, Mar. 2002; 48(3), 52 (Access requires login).

Skim School Libraries: A Design Recipe for the Future by Henry Myerberg, Knowledge Quest, 31(1).

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Why should design and layout be dictated by function?

The school library media center facility must be flexible enough to meet the needs of the library media program as it changes over time. The design and layout must address user needs and a wide range of program activities.

Users. In addition to being used by students and teachers throughout the school day, library media centers are an essential community resource. In designing facilities, keep in mind that they can be used by adult learners, community members during and outside of the normal school day hours.

Size. Size should not be based solely upon the school population, but the facility must be large enough to contain all essential areas of a comprehensive program.

Patterns of Use. Patterns of center use should incorporate the needs of whole classes, small groups, and individual users.

Evidence. A plan for renovation or new / replacement building of a school library media facility should be based upon evidence. Evidence from current and past operations are needed. Also collect evidence from other model programs that show the changes that are sought.

The library media facility should:

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When do you start planning?

It’s not too early to start now as you are entering or are relatively new to the professional field. Begin collecting good ideas. Keep them in an electronic journal or maintain a traditional folder.

Field Trips. Tour different school library media centers. Be sure to visit as many newly built or remodeled centers as possible. Make notes and take photographs of design layouts, furniture, and features that you like.

Virtual Visits. Virtually visit a few libraries online. Note how functionality and visual design interrelate.

eye means readExplore Facilities Information: Exemplary School Library Facilities by Carol Simpson, University of North Texas.

Seasoned library media specialists proclaim that planning and building a new school library media center can be both daunting and rewarding. What a challenge the process is! What an opportunity! What fun it can be and yet it requires lots of energy and work. Where do you get started when you learn that a new building or renovation might be in the works?

Read and Collect. Read the latest texts on facilities planning. Check the online databases for recent articles. Prepare yourself with needed background information. As you read journals and visit websites, clip/copy pictures and collect articles and information related to facilities (i.e., Every February issue of School Library Journal focuses on school library media facilities, every April of American Libraries focuses on library facilities).

Seek Advise. Seek the advise of professional colleagues. Use your networks within your professional organizations and listservs / discussion forums / web-blogs to gain insights and tips from fellow media librarians who have been through a similar experience.

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What are the implications of American with Disabilities Act (ADA)?

Access to resources must be equitable. Federal ADA requirements must be met for any new or renovated school library media facility to ensure that access to information resources and technology is provided to all persons. The facility must be accessible to handicapped persons. This space or class cannot cover or explain all of the provisions and ramifications of this legislation. New regulations and interpretations regularly appear. Title II and Title III sections of the 1990 ADA Act apply to school facilities and also be aware of the connections to Section 255 of the 1996 Telecommunications Act. You should be aware of the following three documents:

The teacher librarian should work closely with the architect and if available, ADA or adaptive technology consultant(s) to insure that design and planning decisions are the most appropriate choices for all persons.

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Why is facilities planning a collaborative process?

You are not alone. In any major facilities planning and building process, you should collaborate with (not limited to) these stakeholders:

Be sure that everyone who regularly uses or works in the library media center be included, even if that just means catching the janitor cleaning your center for a few minutes and having them look at early layouts.

In addition, it is a good idea to form an advisory committee, separate from the building committee, that concentrates planning and oversight efforts for matters relevant just for the library media center. Start with representative members for the faculty, staff, students, and workers. Members of the advisory committee as well as representative students and teachers can also be involved in any additional visits to new library facilities.

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What program documents must be updated?

Another action starting point is to update the program documents: philosophy statement, mission statement, list of goals, and all program plan(s). Be sure to include the technology plan and the long-range plan for the library media center. These documents will serve to guide you and other stakeholders involved in the planning and building process.

Remember that many key people who will read/examine these documents are not librarians or teachers; therefore, complete a program statement that summarizes the documents in terms that layperson’s use. Make it concise as possible. Check for clear understandings by having someone not involved with the school and not a teacher or teacher librarian read the document.

The main audience for this program document is the architect and it is important that they understand and gain a clear vision of what the library media center is at present and what is envisioned for its future.

eye means readRead FAQs about Facilities: Practical Tips for Planning Renovations and New School Library Media Centers by Mary Anne Lenk in Knowledge Quest, (31)1, p. 27-31 Sept.-Oct. 2002. Answers frequently asked questions (FAQs) related to planning for renovating or building school library media centers (SLMCs). Topics include the role of the school library media specialist, advance planning, importance of a written long-range plan, library consultants, courses on planning, design compromises, planning resources, professional movers, lessons learned, and the future of SLMCs.

Skim this comprehensive website called National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities. It contains great resources for planning, designing, and building K-12 school facilities in the Library and Media Center Design: K-12 and School Facilities Design—Overview section.

Itemize the space needs for the center. Make a bubble chart or diagram connecting approximate square footage with functional areas and indicate the relationships between spaces (i.e., reference materials connected to small-group study area, number of database workstations and whether grouped/distributed, proximity to checkout (circulation) desk).

Identify the functional contributions of each area to the library media program.

There will be more about space requirements in the Elements of a School Library Media Facilities.

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Read More About It

Accessibility Resources

Access Board
Federal agency committed to accessible design.

Partially funded by the U.S. Department of Education/National Institute on Disabilities and Rehabilitative Research (NIDRR), this organization helps create solutions that enable people with functional limitations to live, learn, work and play in the community of their choice.

Indiana AccessIT
Provides information and technical assistance about accessible education-related information technology.

National Center on Accessible Information Technology in Education from University of Washington

Adaptive Environments: Human Centered Designs

Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America
Important Sections:
Bibliography Library – Education
Bibliography Library – Libraries
State Contact Lists

Facilities Resources

Erikson, Rolf & Markuson, Carolyn. Designing a School Library Media Center for the Future. Chicago: American Library Association, 2001.

McCarthy, Richard C. Designing Better Libraries: Selecting & Working with Building Professionals. Fort Atkinson, WI: Highsmith Press, 1995.
This text focuses on the processes and interactions involving a teacher librarian and architects and other consultants planning a renovation or new facility project.

Other Online Resources:
American School & University
Magazine on school facilities planning.

Building Libraries and Library Additions: A Selected Annotated Bibliography. ALA Library Fact Sheet Number 11.
Building new libraries, additions, and even remodeling can be a daunting task, and one that most librarians do not undertake frequently. This fact sheet provides references to the tools, resources, and advice to help you manage your library building project, whether large or small.

Baule, Steve (2003). Planning for Library Facilities. Presentation at Ohio Educational Library Media Association (OELMA)

Classrooms, Library Media Centers, and New Technology from Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction
Observations & rationale, design considerations, and pitfalls to avoid.
Related Webpage:
Design Considerations for School Library Media Centers

Dotten, Rose. Library Alive! (PDF document)
What to look for when designing or redesigning a school library.

Facilities. American Association of School Librarians.

Facilities Guidelines from the South Carolina Department of Education (MS Word doc)
Related Documents from SC Dept. of Ed:
Tips for Designing Your New Library Media Center (MS Word doc)

Facilities Standard from Massachusetts School Library Media Association

Fenton, Serena (Feb. 1999). Architectural Follies from School Library Journal (Access requires login) . . .
An architect-turned-librarian shares a strategy for working with architects to create a great library/media center. Discusses how to be involved in the architectural process step-by-step, from the planning stage, design development, construction document stage, through the final phase of creating a punch list.

Jarmusch, Ann (Sept. 1, 2003). Mental Gymnastics. Architecture; 92(9), p60-64
Describes the addition of a library and gymnasium addition to the Rose and Alex Pilibos Armenian School in Los Angeles. Significant savings were realized by using a customized Butler building for the gymnasium. Detailing reminiscent of Armenian culture was used throughout.

Library Facilities (Guidelines) from Washington Library Media Association
Brief overview of space specifications, function, planning and guidelines for school libraries.

Maine School Library Facilities Handbook (1999) from Maine Association of School Libraries (MASL)
Designed to assist school library media specialists and architects in planning new or renovated facilities to meet the continually changing needs of both school children and school communities.

Planning Assistance from California State Library’s Office of Library Construction

Planning and Building Libraries from University of British Columbia. School of Library, Archival and Information Studies.
This site has been created for librarians, architects, design consultants, and students interested in all aspects of planning and building libraries. The site provides an outline of key resources that are available online.

Schlipf, Fred & Moorman, John. Seven Deadly Sins of Public Library Architecture, 1998.
Outline of a program presented by Fred Schlipf and John Moorman at the Public Library Association national conference in Kansas City on March 12, 1998.
Related Presentation:
27 Snappy Rules for Good and Evil in Library Architecture

School Library from Whole Building Design Guide, National Institute of Building Sciences
Information on a wide range of building-related guidance, criteria and technology from a 'whole buildings' perspective.

School Planning and Management
Magazine with information on school facilities planning.

Spira, Kirsten Hicks. Renovating on a Shoestring. School Library Journal, July 2002; 48(7), 35. (Access requires login) . . .
How a private school revamped its library at one-third the cost.

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