Middle Grade Monday – Mixing things up in the Middle School Library
I’ve had a couple of wonderful opportunities to attend conferences lately. One was a one day school library focussed conference, and the other was a two day instructional technology conference. They both provided exposure to a wealth of new ideas I’m hoping to weave into plans for reconfiguring both the space and purpose of my school’s library media center. After years of an administration with an extremely traditional view of the space (i.e.. it’s a good place for faculty meetings) we have been gifted with an administration that has expressed an interest in more forward thinking uses for the space. We also now have a half time Technology Facilitator who has moved into the media center space and already started to mix things up (with my encouragement and blessing.)
Currently, the school’s library is set up to accommodate whole group teaching and learning. While I think that is still going to be a need on a regular basis, I’m hoping to shift the focus of the media center program to be one of exploration and discovery. To be honest, I want it to be transparent to the students that they are meant to interact with all of the materials in the library. I cannot count the number of times a student has asked me, “Are we allowed to look at the atlases in this case?” Why yes, yes you are! That’s why they’re in a special case with a slanted top to make them easier to explore and handle! *headdesk* But it’s a common enough question, along with “Are we allowed to check out the books on display?” There is something about the way we are using the space, the way it is set up and the way the students interact with it that is telling them look, don’t touch, when I deeply desire that it tell them pick me up, try me out, explore! My verbal cues can only go so far, it needs to be apparent from the way the space is presented.
To that end, the new Technology Facilitator and I will be meeting with the team from central office who work with designing new schools’ library media centers and talking through our ideas. The two of us have already discussed (and ordered materials for) a new maker space to be operated in the library. In fact, we want to put it where the circulation desk is now. It’s hard to justify having the circulation desk take up valuable real estate when it is simply the place where the self checkout stations are located. We are no longer staffed in a way that accommodates an adult managing circulation and have had the students manage it for themselves for a few years. We’re also fortunate in that the circulation desk is a combination of modular pieces that are completely reconfigurable, rather than one big monstrosity bolted to walls or floor.
So, taking the idea of stations we will be creating in the maker space area, I would like to expand this idea to the rest of the space (with the exception of one whole class area.) My hope is that the library space will be able to be configured in multiple small group and individual exploration areas that help to create the atmosphere of exploration and discovery we envision. Reconfiguring the space in this way is going to require a shift in the way the faculty views use of the space – hopefully in a positive way. Change is always a risk, but my hope is that we are ready. Have any of you gone through a similar shift lately? Do you have any advice?
Filed under: Middle Grade Monday
About Robin Willis
After working in middle school libraries for over 20 years, Robin Willis now works in a public library system in Maryland.
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