Elementary Library Media Center

The Case Against Decentralization

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What Does a Library Media Center Provide?

Background Information

Toolkit for School Library Media Programs:

Library Media Centers are places of opportunity where students can strive for and achieve success, develop a love of reading and explore the world around them through print, electronic and other media. Our school library is more than books. It is a learning hub with a full range of print and electronic media that support student achievement.

School Library Programs Improve Student Learning:

By setting high expectations and establishing a school culture that values reading, research, and inquiry, you can boost student achievement and empower teachers with a resource proven to increase student learning. Schools that support their library programs give their students a better chance to succeed, enabling students to become critical thinkers, enthusiastic readers, skillful researchers, and ethical users of information ready for 21st century life and careers.

Media Specialists: The Hub at the Center of the School

  • School libraries should be “the hub of the school and [should be] innovative, vibrant, and flexible spaces, staffed with school librarians who inspire students to become tech savvy and independent life-long readers and learners.”
  • But even beyond the selection of books, a successful school library is inviting to everyone in the school community. Many media centers across the county have sets of over-stuffed furniture and media specialists encourage students and staff alike to think of the library as a space they can go to for help, information, or just a friendly conversation in the middle of a busy day. Because no matter how the space is being used, media specialists know that the more people who come into the school library, the more people who will see it as a resource at the center of the school. “It is the heart of everything,” Amanda says. “It involves technology, reading–it is the heart and support of all the initiatives we’re trying to get kids to learn. It’s all here.”

Lifelong Learners

Imagine a place where all students feel welcome and encouraged to grow and learn. That space is the school library. School libraries provide more than just books, computers and other technology, databases of accurate information, e-books, plus fun and educational activities. School libraries provide a safe haven for all students to think, create, share, and grow. School libraries can be the hub of learning and the favorite spot for many students.

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Commentary from OELMA listserv, Future Ready Librarians Facebook page, and district library staff:

  • "You are losing the feel of the library. If it doesn’t feel like a library, the importance of checking books out isn’t there."
  • "Your space should work for the current needs of your school family and for future generations. We have a newer building and my space is tiny. Student supervision and dialogue with children to select the right book is very important. Not all students understand how to find things."
  • "Relationships with students will be lost--the very thing we are trying so hard as a district to achieve!! We know the students, know their interests and what they like to read. I very often hold back books for a student knowing they will love that book! They will never know that book exists; I won't know their reading habits."
  • "When we went with our new superintendent to visit schools to get ideas for our new HS space, we saw that many have reduced books to fiction only--a very small collection--and many went from having certified library media specialists down to aides since no "real library" program existed anymore. The mentality of having makerspaces but not having a library is absolutely crazy!"
  • "I was planning on creating a school-wide reading competition next year to complement reading fluency instruction that occurs in classrooms. I was going to get local authors and people from the community to participate. I feel like this is now put on hold since there's no way I could do something like this if the library collection is spread throughout the new building. I also want to focus more on technology literacy skills, which have become much more important now due to remote learning, but if I'm not even going to have a classroom, I'm not sure how I can do any instruction."

Community & Staff

Background Information

  • Because Finneytown does not have a branch of the Public Library of Cincinnati & Hamilton County within walking distance, the district's Library Media Centers are the only libraries to which they have consistent access. Breaking up the library collection into grade level mini-collections further reduces our students' ideas of what libraries are and how to use them.
  • Our community relies heavily upon the use of our Library Media Centers. In the initial discussions about what our new buildings should look like, the theme that we heard over & over again was "practicality and functionality over bells and whistles." The Finneytown community does NOT want to lose a highly functioning library media program to a makerspace program that does not currently exist simply because the architects have an outdated idea of the purpose of library media programs. Our library staff has worked tirelessly to foster a culture of literacy and a lifelong love of reading for pleasure. The collection has been built with care and concern for all reading levels, interests, and curriculum supports. We are not simply a book repository, but a safe haven for all learners.
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Commentary from OELMA listserv, Future Ready Librarians Facebook page, and district library staff:

  • "The first question everyone asks is 'where is the library?'"
  • "Have you thought about where community meetings are going to be held now? Our new cafetorium is super loud and echoey--not conducive to meetings."
  • "Northwood School district near Toledo has such a setup. When visiting, I was not really impressed. Everything was small, not much of a collection in any of the spaces. Things were very disjointed. I had a pit in my stomach while visiting the school. While it was a beautiful facility with many positives, the collection could not be well maintained for the benefit of the kids."
  • "When teachers need certain books, will there be a staff member available to locate and check out the books they need from different locations, or will they need to use their planning bells to do this themselves?"
  • "I'm flabbergasted that you are having this conversation at all! It's a school, for goodness sake! It needs a library. It's exhausting to fight for what is a no-brainer best practice for kids."
  • "The architects don't know much about the community, and have no idea about the importance of the library media center in Finneytown. I think the community will have an adverse reaction to decentralizing."
  • "A makerspace would be awesome, but not at the expense of a Library Media Center."
  • "Why would you decentralize the library for a space that might get used? The Library Media Center is a valuable educational space. The students LOVE library time!"


Background Information

Reading Levels Unfairly Label Learners
  • Not only are reading levels not measured consistently, but due to so many subjective factors, there’s no way to make these determinations better, says literacy expert Donalyn Miller, author of The Book Whisperer. In addition, if adults don’t take into account a student’s passion and knowledge in an area, they can miss the chance to give a student a challenging book about, say, baking or skateboarding. “Even within a reading level, there’s so many factors that go into ability,” says Cheryl Wolf, librarian at the Neighborhood School and S.T.A.R. Academy in New York City.
  • The biggest argument against leveled reading, made by Miller and other experts, is that the system has moved from ranking books to labeling students. On her blog, Miller describes seeing kids at the library wearing tags stating what range of books they can check out. “This is a teacher’s tool, not a child’s level,” she says. It also limits the opportunity to browse widely.When kids come from schools that are highly leveled, they don’t know how to choose a book.
  • With the old research discredited, other studies are filling the gap of how best to match readers with books. One is Alisa Morgan’s work, published online in The Journal of Educational Research in 2010, that randomly put second graders in one of three groups: reading on grade level, reading two grades above their level, or reading four grades above their level. After a period of time, that research showed, students reading on their instructional level learned less than those reading two levels above, according to Shanahan. Future studies, mostly with elementary students, backed up this finding.
  • Another common complaint is that students can get pigeonholed with a certain reading score for too long, robbing them of the ability to move to more difficult books as the school year progresses and their reading ability rises.
  • In addition, students have a lot to gain by reading books above or below their assigned level. Reading a book above their level may require more interaction with a teacher or librarian who can support, scaffold, and explain a book as the student progresses. In today’s world of larger class sizes and librarian cutbacks, this time is harder to find for reading teachers.
  • Miller notes that students reading below their level can gain valuable reading skills, such as increasing their speed, fluency, and ability to chunk words. Karen Yingling, librarian at Blendon Middle School in Westerville, OH, says that one summer her third grade daughter, who was five grade levels ahead of her age group, spent the summer reading HarperCollins’s “I Can Read!” books for hours on end. When she returned to school in the fall, her reading level had increased.
  • Shanahan invokes an athletic comparison when offering advice. Top runners don’t train at one level, he says: They take long runs, fast but shorter runs, and also can lift weights to build specific muscles. Variety should be the key for readers, too. “Kids should read a wide range of texts, and libraries can help,” he says. “They should read easy books to things that kick their butt. The variation of difficulty does matter.”
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Commentary from OELMA listserv, Future Ready Librarians Facebook page, and district library staff:

  • "My biggest concern is the 4th-6th graders who are reading at a 1st or 2nd grade level -- do they 'take the walk of shame' down to the lower level when they need a book? Horrendous!"
  • "How does this fit with accessibility for kids reading above/below grade level as well as not stigmatizing kids' reading choices?"
  • "Have you gotten any SPED perspectives? You do not want to mess with SPED parents."
  • "Our high school has two areas, and whatever the student needs is always in the other area. Non-fiction is separate from fiction and students have to either wait in line twice if they want to sign out both, or set off the security gates if I give permission to take material to sign out on the other side. The gates go off a lot. I wouldn’t recommend it."
  • "If the books in the library are split up, students will not have as much choice, especially in non-fiction, of topics and books that they WANT to read. Dinosaur books will be split up, planets, wolves...the examples go on and on!"
  • "If the students are able to look up books and figure out what learning center they are housed in, time will be wasted in them going from place to place locating these books, possibly in more than one place, instead of going to one central location. This will be true of required research books, and books they want to read for their own knowledge and pleasure."
  • "Non-fiction books or author studies will have books split up everywhere. This will result in wasted time for both students and teachers trying and not always being successful in finding where books are located."
  • "Book series: How will these be split up? All in one learning center? Volumes 1-4 one place, 5-8 at another? When a student starts reading a series they often want to read the entire series. If they are shelved in a different learning center, there will be wasted time to get them all. Students also want to read books by the same author; again, a location problem."
  • "It's killing me to think of one of the best elementary collections anywhere in Ohio being taken apart."


Background Information

  • Even with supervision, 105 books were "missing in inventory" from Brent and Whitaker from August 13, 2018 to July 31, 2019, costing us $1,128.61.
  • Without supervision, this number is certain to increase dramatically every year.
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Commentary from OELMA listserv, Future Ready Librarians Facebook page, and district library staff:

  • "In theory, with enough staff in each section it could possibly work, but how do you split a collection (because budgets, I'm sure, would not support adequate duplicates for each collection to address the diverse needs of student abilities/needs)?"'
  • "Financial issue: will you have enough copies of books to accommodate all reading levels & interests? How will you staff all of the various library spaces? Loss of books is huge in unsupervised spaces."
  • "Is the budget sustainable for maintaining collections for multiple spaces if it is reducing accessibility to choices that may not be in the immediate grade level collection?"
  • "Our nearby elementary did this. Kids who were lower readers had to go down to the first grade area to get books. Stuff went missing. Things never got checked out. Losses were huge. They eventually created a central library space off the main hallway about 10 years later."
  • "How many duplicate copies will be needed at different learning centers?"
  • Self-Checkout Stations:
    • "Early elementary students are not able to use self-checkout stations. They must somehow get their name, not someone else's name to come up. They do not recognize their name in last name first order. They will forget (or just not bother) to check out books. I always check my class list before they leave to catch any books not checked out. Thousands of dollars are already lost every year."
    • "Damaged books that are able to be checked in are not discovered until other students find them. You cannot tell who to charge for damage. Thousands of dollars will be lost."
    • "Every book will have to have the gizmo to allow them to be used in the self-checkout stations. This is a huge cost, not to mention the staffing cost to make this happen."
  • "Who will be shelving books that are returned in the learning centers? What kind of staffing will be needed to keep 4 "collections" organized?"
  • "With the amount of loss we have already due to theft, I can't imagine the levels of loss there would be if the library is decentralized. I know of three places that tried something like this. Within a couple of years, they had to go to one library media center space due to both loss and supervision issues."

Flex Space Limitations

Background Information

Schools & Education: Introducing the Flex Space Solution

Teachers Katie and Michelle were unsure whether it would be beneficial or not. However, they ended up utilizing it constantly, discovering how functional and valuable the shared space was. They came up with a list of “100 ways” to use the multi-use space between both their classrooms. Here are 10 of their 100 ideas:

  • Small reading groups can go to this area for a quiet place to work
  • Monitored space for makeup exams
  • One lab space for a shared program or individual classroom needs
  • Storage area for both rooms
  • Story telling for both rooms using one teacher
  • Cool-off area for students who need a break due to bad behavior
  • Message corridor to send messages to other teacher
  • Safe area to let projects dry
  • Set up area to gather materials for a lesson
  • Food serving area for events with single clean up area
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Commentary from OELMA listserv, Future Ready Librarians Facebook page, and district library staff:

  • "With so many uses for the flex space, how in the world will there be room for a library collection, library classes, spaces to read and do research, not to mention space to browse for and check out books?"
  • "A split collection does not serve anyone well...lots of lost time running around to find things."
  • "The flex space is unusable; awful; not flexible at all. Too many people are trying to use it at the same time. Nobody is responsible for it. Balancing library & small groups all working in the flex space is very difficult. Bookshelves and tables are all very crowded. It is very echoey; sound is a really big issue. Shelving is only 36” high, so there is a great deal of lost space!! There is no display space, except for on top of the shelves, which turns out to be even more of an invitation to just take the books without checking them out. Super flexible space is unusable for everyone. There is a lot of resentment from classroom teachers who thought that they were going to be able to use the flex spaces a lot more than they're able to because there are always library activities taking place."

Makerspace Limitations

Background Information

The Classroom or Library as a Makerspace

  • Makerspaces like vocational shops and science labs are great additions to schools. They often contain the tools, machinery, and technologies associated with making — 3D printers, laser cutters, vinyl cutters, high tech robotics, vocational tech machinery. These are great for educational institutions and learners that can afford them.
  • Problems occur when administrators, educators, learners, and communities come to believe that maker education is synonymous with these tools and spaces. First, they may be out of budget for schools, especially those serving lower income populations. Second, the regular classroom teacher or librarian may be intimidated with these advanced tools and technologies. Finally, in order to prevent maker education in becoming the educational flavor of the month, administrators, educators, and libraries need to not be seduced by these high tech tools. The longevity and sustainability of maker education will depend on making it feasible, approachable, and accessible to the masses of educators.
  • Public focus on maker education often centers on flashy technology, but it is more than just that. Maker education is about building educational experiences that are based in the real world, that allow student choice, and that achieve multiple objectives. Maker education can be used in a variety of ways and projects can be adjusted in scale or scope to meet individual class or student needs. The key to successful maker education implementation is finding project ideas that seamlessly integrate “making” into the lessons. In the end, maker education is all about providing engaging experiences for students that brings out the best in them in the form of problem solving and determination.
  • With these broader definitions and approaches to maker education, and with the realization that maker education does not have to be about the shiny, new toys, more school administrators, librarians, and educators may be willing to embrace maker education within their own work settings. A classroom or library can be at least partially transformed into its own makerspace, a space for powerful student learning by doing the following actions workable and realistic for most librarians and educators.
  • Practitioners talk about the maker mindset and then speak of the shiny new toys they use without talking about the context — of what skills and knowledge students learn from it. For example, with the 3D printer, they might talk about the Yoda they made and I say, “So what?” It really is about having a maker mindset not about the shiny, new maker tools. It’s about the making process; about the engagement, creativity, innovation, struggles to complete a difficult task, sense of accomplishment. A cardboard box, for example, can become a chariot, rocket, robot, marble run, Foosball game, dollhouse, Hot Wheels track, house, fort, castle, game.
  • We must exercise the discipline to refrain from attaching too quickly to an idea just because it’s new. Making is no exception, so to truly prepare ourselves to be successful in this new venture, let’s be sure we set our students up to have the right mindset to be courageous innovators.
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Commentary from OELMA listserv, Future Ready Librarians Facebook page, and district library staff:

  • "Makerspacers might go by the wayside in a few years...when the next new fad comes along."
  • "In the last few years, Lake Local schools in Stark county reimagined and renovated our buildings PreK-12. Every space and grade level was impacted. We went from 5 schools to 3; our MSHS houses 7-12; our Elementary, 2-6; our Primary, PreK-1. All 3 spaces have a dedicated library space. It is hard for anyone in education to say that literacy is less important than makerspace programming."
  • "Where will library classes meet? If makerspace isn’t an essential piece of curriculum, why would you dedicate an entire room to that? Project Lab makes more sense for a makerspace. Is having a dedicated makerspace more important than library? It's antithetical to any research you can find."
  • "I just don't believe that teachers are going to adequately use this extra space."

Learning Commons Research

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Background Information

Library Media Center Facilities Guidelines

  • From pre-kindergarten to postgraduate endeavors, students need skills to navigate an information-driven and global society. The design of the library media center must support students in acquiring life and career skills, in understanding media use and application, in making appropriate use of technology tools, and in learning to participate in a collaborative environment.
  • Library media centers play a vital role supporting the school community: As a social commons for learning and community engagement, the library media center has the potential to be the center for collaboration and interaction at the heart of the school, as well as the community. It serves as a unifying element, a common denominator bringing students together across the disciplines. In many communities, the library media center serves as a location for after-school meetings, educational and cultural enrichment opportunities, and career development programs. In communities that need the additional support, they can contain resource areas for parents and guardians to help in their students’ academic success and their own viability for employment.
  • Library media centers serve as program and spatial unifiers within school communities as well as places where the wider outside community can engage. Providing bookshelves, tables, and chairs that are easy to both move and store out of the way is key to multi- functional usage, both during and after school. The space and elements provided should allow for group or individual learning as well as formal and informal arrangements.
  • Library media centers have the greatest impact when they are inviting and dynamic spaces! They should foster memorable experiences, stimulate the senses, transcend the humdrum, and make the ordinary extraordinary. By appealing to students as places where learning is “cool,” they raise the user’s own expectations of what they can explore and achieve.
  • According to The Library Project‘s research data, transformed libraries have become a source of pride for the school community and have had positive impact on the school climate. Teachers are using the libraries more often than before and students are shown to be reading more books. By creating strong emotional bonds with their school library media centers, students will embrace learning both within school and throughout their life.
  • The library media center is one of the most important and largest teaching spaces in any school, used by staff and the community at large. Its size and prominence often shapes one’s impression of how learning is valued at the school.
  • The design should exemplify the school library media center's role in this modern period: as a hub for collaboration, creativity, interactivity, performance, and exploration, both online and offline. Most of the functions of a library media center are contained in one overall space to allow the greatest supervision with limited staff. There should be areas that foster communication and collaboration among students, in addition to areas for class instruction and quiet individual study and reading designed to appeal to variety of learners with different lighting levels and types of seating.
  • The Primary and Elementary School Library Media Center is a supervised, child-friendly environment. Particular attention should be paid to the scale of overall space and size of the furniture. Decoration should express the excitement of learning. Book shelving should be kept low (48” maximum). Children come to school with a broad range of library experience; some may be encountering them for the first time. The school library media collection should directly support the curriculum and needs of the children in that particular school community. The majority of elementary students use the library media center in whole class groups to focus on particular skills and tasks as taught and supervised by the library media specialist and assistants. It is important that one of the instructional areas be designed to enhance storytelling with nearby shelving for oversized picture books. Some elementary schools may allow individual students with passes to visit the library media center at set times, encouraging periods of self- discovery. Shelving should be designed to allow books to be within easy reach and to have some with their front covers visible for greatest appeal.
  • Ideally, the library media center should be at the "heart" of the school and serve as the “hub" of learning. Most academic programs want proximity and easy access for their students. Administrators and teachers want convenient access for themselves during planning periods.
  • Understanding the program goals and the unique role that this space serves in a particular school community is critical to determining its ideal location.
  • Library media centers are often used for after-school community meetings and thus require convenient access to the school’s main entrance and parking. It should be in a portion of the school that can be open at night, separate from the secured zone of the classroom wings.
  • AASL listed actions to be considered in the design and function of the library space:
  1. Create an environment that is conducive to active and participatory learning, resource-based learning, and collaboration with teaching staff;
  2. Create a friendly, comfortable, well-lit, aesthetically pleasing, and ergonomic space that is centrally located, easily accessible, and well integrated with the rest of the school;
  3. Include designed learning spaces that accommodate a range of teaching methods, learning tasks, and learning outcomes;
  4. Provide space and seating that enhances and encourages technology use, leisure reading and browsing, and use of materials in all formats;
  5. Provide sufficient and appropriate shelving and storage of resources;
  6. Ensure that technology, telecommunications, and power infrastructure is adequate to support teaching and learning.
  7. Gather feedback from students, teachers, and other stakeholders to ensure that the physical space meets the needs of the school community.

How a School Library Increased Student Use by 1,000 Percent

  • Last year at Big Walnut Middle School in Sunbury, Ohio, there were some days when fewer than ten students passed through the library doors. Some schools have addressed this problem by converting their libraries to makerspaces. These hands-on environments allow students to to build, create, design, and experiment. When we see makerspaces, we tend to see big Lego tables, coding and computing tools like Raspberry Pi kits, and 3-D printers where students can see their creations come to life.
  • But Big Walnut principal Penny Sturtevant had a vision that was a bit different from the makerspaces she was seeing. She wanted her library to be a place that was a little less open-ended, a place where students did hands-on work, but as an extension of what was happening their classrooms. Instead of taking her inspiration from the maker movement, Sturtevant was interested in trends she was seeing toward more personalized learning.
  • Even in the early stages, we knew that this might be a story I would share here, so that other schools who might not be ready for a full makerspace could see this as a viable alternative.
  • So how did it all turn out? Well, Big Walnut’s brand-new Learning Center definitely doesn’t suffer from a student use problem. On an average day, over a hundred students will visit to work on projects, make use of interactive technologies, film and edit videos, and yes, check out books. The books now became consolidated along the wall.
  • [They] knew they wanted to create a place where students could collaborate in lots of different ways, so they needed flexibility in how the space was used. To accomplish that, they looked for furniture that could easily be moved. "Everything we have there is movable, whether it’s the chairs, the interactive boards, or the flat panels.”
  • If you want to personalize your learning, which is what we’re doing nowadays anyway, you can send three or four kids down to the learning center with a pass that allows us [library media specialists] to work with them.”

Let Creative Minds Loose in the Library

  • In the era where standardized testing limits the kind of learning that happens in classrooms, school libraries can be dynamic, creative places where students can develop independent ideas and build lifelong skills. Libraries can become soundstages as well as cozy conversation lounges.
  • School librarians and library media specialists have the opportunity to meet children where they are and guide them to new understandings. School libraries are no longer the silent spaces of the past. Yes, you can eat in the library. And talk. And collaborate. And create. As one student wrote, "Our library is a place where magic happens."

How to Redesign the K-12 Media Center

  • The media center is the largest academic space in most schools and should be a place where students and staff want to be.
  • Frequently, the media center is also the most public space for the community, where school meetings, board meetings and PTO meetings are held. You want to ensure that it’s a place your community can take pride in.
  • When classroom and media center design is “driven by the desire to create personal and authentic learning experiences for students,” it can move teaching practices forward, Tom Murray, the director of innovation for Future Ready Schools, recently told EdTech.
  • Regardless of what your school or district ultimately includes in a media center redesign, it is important to remember that every decision should be made with additional perspectives behind it. Designed correctly, a K–12 media center can, and should, work as a central hub for learning, where all members of a school can thrive.

Rethinking the Library Media Center

  • “The first and most critical element of the transformation was literally breaking apart the bookcases from their bases. They used to be bolted to the floor and to the walls. We cut the bookcases apart and created new tops and bottoms and finally put them on industrial casters, allowing us to completely rearrange our library space.”
  • From there, Burleson set about adding flexible furniture to the learning environment. “The tables are on wheels, can flip up and be nested. Our chairs are stackable and slide easily out of the way. Additionally, we added a mix of stools and foam cubes for sturdy and functional seating. We created window bench seats that can be flipped up to reveal workbenches along the windows. All of these elements together allow us to now host at least three classes in our space. This has worked incredibly well as we have had an entire grade level working in the library at one time. It works equally well with mixed age groups.”
  • “An underutilized space was converted to a Creation Station with low-tech options that include paper, crayons, markers, Lego building blocks, and drawing books. In another part of the library, a tinkering table was set up for students completing Genius Hour projects. Currently, it has an old television on it—some third grade students are taking it apart so that they can try to figure out how it works.” A third section of the library now houses a 3D printer that is used in a variety of ways to support classroom instruction.
  • “What about the books?” people often ask as the library media center evolves “Are they being phased out?” Not at all, say the specialists who contributed to this article. In fact, many of the changes have made the books more accessible and the reading spaces more inviting. For example, explains Fontinell, “I have been working to make the space more student-centered by transitioning from a traditional, Dewey-based shelving model to a book-store configuration that makes locating books more intuitive for students. In addition, I have tried to create more comfortable spots in the library for students to work through comfortable chairs and benches.”
  • “We have a building initiative this year to expand the reading culture of our school. This initiative has brought the focus of books and reading back to the library, which has been an interesting development. Though this trend towards books and the library might seem backwards, it has been great to see both the space and staff recognized as leaders in supporting a community of readers. Circulation (both print and digital) is at an all-time high!”
  • According to Todd Burleson, his school “provides every class with a set ‘quiet’ time in the library in which they come to check out books. We use this time to introduce kids to new authors, prepare for visiting authors, and to teach specific library skills. This happens for most classes on Monday. The rest of the week, each class has a one-hour block of IDEA Lab time. This is where the students explore through design thinking and problem based learning.”
  • With the creative space on the back half, and a new lounge space on the front half, we have the best of both worlds in a library. During renovation, I had to reassure the users we would keep our print books and only rearrange the space.
  • “I am most proud of the fact that the [Washburne] library is a place where students feel comfortable and want to be. The students use the variety of resources constantly. Whether it is before school, after school, during lunch periods, or with an academic class, the library is always full of energy and learning. It is great to see our library media center as a destination students are drawn to.”
  • Jennifer Lanier also points out that the redesign of the library media center, using design thinking principles, has provided a model for others. “The design thinking process has been used by several of the faculty already. This is the best way to impact the larger student body. Our goal is that this type of learning will continue to expand through the entire building."

Envisioning the 21st Century Media Center

  • In an age of iPads, Kindles, and other wireless devices, it’s no surprise that students today love media centers. They know that today’s library media center is so much more than books!
  • Today’s students use the media center for a variety of reasons including:
  1. access to a professional information expert (Media Specialist) who can help tailor research topics and guide students toward quality, age-appropriate resources
  2. collaborating on group work
  3. accessing a variety of resources
  4. a safe, non-distracting place to explore
  5. a place to use a device and/or use school computing resources
  6. a warm, inviting atmosphere
  7. a place where information is discovered, created, and shared
  • While information can be obtained from virtually anywhere, the media center remains the only central location where new technologies can be combined with traditional information sources to support learning.

Redefining the High School Library Media Center

  • Schools exist that do not have libraries. There is one right in my neighborhood. I think through their school library’s absence they have come to the conclusion such a purposeful space is in fact indispensable for a really successful school. A school can function without a library, but like all good parties, nice towns, and even cells in our body, a purposeful center or a nucleus is needed to draw a school all together. This, I believe is where the new and redefined school library comes in.
  • The new model of a library media center should focus on that which can impress students and teachers (much of the past functions) and also that which can allow students and teachers to creatively express. If the school’s nucleus (the library media center) can turn itself into a location rich with these kinds of broadly defined forces, or activities, it, in my opinion can help transform a school the most positive ways. A welcoming and thoughtfully designed library media center not only supports our students’ academic needs, but also their social and emotional needs. This helps set a healthy tone throughout the school on many levels.
  • With a foundation of the best print resources available, well organized, tailored to the needs of the school, and attractively displayed, the library media center has one foot firmly in place with rock solid tradition. Emily Dickinson opens one of her poems with the line “There is no frigate like a book.” Perhaps that line is even truer today as many of us are distracted by the multi-functions of computers. The elegance of technology found in the book can be mastered by a child not even one year old! This can be observed as he or she carefully turns the pages with little fingers. So a rich, tangible, and attractive print collection serves as the facility’s base. In my opinion, any school library that gives this area short shrift is a fake.
  • Developing the “expression” side of the library and equipping it with the tools and equipment needed can place the library media center’s other foot firmly into the present and the future. I think this area, in many ways keeps the library relevant and useful. A library that has one foot in tradition and one in the future is a good spot to be in.
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Commentary from OELMA listserv, Future Ready Librarians Facebook page, and district library staff:

  • "They can coexist in one space. We spent a lot of time in discussion as we are building a Research and Innovation Center at Wyoming High School. The President of the BOE and I have been fighting very hard to keep the library part of this new center. I already use a lot of databases for research. Does Covid make me rethink a few things (digital books)? Yes, but I think our students are getting screen-weary and some will want print resources. Not only do they want to be able to find them fast, they want what's new and they need guidance and sometimes suggestions for books. When I can walk the stacks with them, they walk away with books. When we renovated our MS library about 6 years ago, I got to be involved in the design process (never as much space as we want). I made use of stairwells for storage, and a less used hallway for my "makers way," a green-screen room, etc. We have a FAB lab at the end of the hallway, and 2 art rooms--so that is all 'makers.' I make stations for makers activities or often have the whole classes doing spheros, LittleBits etc. I have books that support all the maker activities, from duct tape projects to 3D printers and everything in between. I have some good articles I used years ago to support the concept of a Learning Commons. One thing I will say for sure--I am not a tidy place! When makerspace and library co-exist, it is messy (I am the custodians' nightmare) but that is proof positive that many things are happening in my space under my direction! Our districts are very close--perhaps we can bring some people together to share what Wyoming is doing--the importance of co-existence!"
  • "Why can't the makerspace and library media center be in the same shared space?"

Library Staff Recommendations

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Recommendations from district library staff:

"We spent 2+ days envisioning what our new buildings would look like, and we were assured numerous times that our voices would be heard. This would be a building for Finneytown, with community-specific elements, and nothing would be forced upon us by architects with a specific vision in mind. We were told that our professional opinions would be necessary to drive discussions about what to include and not to include in our new buildings. We feel now that we were duped, and that the vision of the architects is, in fact, driving the decision to decentralize our libraries. The architects work for Finneytown, however, and not the other way around.

If the goal is to eliminate the elementary Library Media Specialist's position, then we need to be told that. It seems to us that the Library Media Specialist will not be needed in a decentralized library. Instruction and collection development will be irrelevant since there won't be anywhere for instruction to take place, and there will be no point in developing a collection that will be split up and more likely to go missing due to lack of supervision.

In our professional opinion--as well as the professional opinion of Library Media Specialists across Ohio and throughout the country--it is best to keep the Library Media Center centralized, staffed by a Library Media Specialist, in the form of a Learning Commons with flexible shelving, seating, workspace, etc. We believe that the Finneytown community will agree with our professional opinions, and if they knew that they were paying a lot of money for a building without a centralized library, there would be outrage and mass discontent.

Anyone who thinks that a library media center is simply a book repository couldn't be further from the truth. As evidenced in the many articles listed above, a library media center should be the heart and the hub of every school building. It is not only possible but desirable for books and a makerspace--with the help of flexible seating and shelving--to co-exist in one space to create an optimum educational environment.

If there remains insistence upon separating the makerspace from the Library Media Center, it is our recommendation to include the makerspace in one of the two project labs per learning community. Makerspaces for kindergarten classes look much different than makerspaces for upper elementary grades anyway, so each makerspace could be tailored for the learning community that it will be serving. The argument has been made that we may need to convert these project labs into classrooms if our enrollment increases, but let's not put the cart before the horse! If enrollment increases, we can worry about what to do with the makerspaces at that time. If everything is designed with flexibility in mind, this will not be a problem.

Right now, we have a very high functioning library media program, with a focus on literacy and a culture of reading throughout the district. There is currently no makerspace program, so nobody is even going to know what to do with it. If it turns out that the makerspace program becomes so popular that it needs its own room, then we can make adjustments at that time. If everything in the Library Media Center is flexible--bookshelves, furniture, etc.--it will be easier to move and fit into flex spaces in learning communities if it has to become decentralized at some point in the future."