Monday, October 12, 2015

Extreme Library Makeover: Part 1

Seventeen months ago we came home from ILA 2014 and bounced into our Principal's office.

"We went to this session, and this woman took her school's underused library and turned it into a literary cafe. And there are comfy chairs! And colors! And books on display! And can we do this? We can totally do this! Let's DO THIS!"

He smiled, and nodded, and - we're pretty sure - pressed that magic button which summoned the secretary to rescue him with some sort of emergency phone call.

"The answer is yes, but not yet. Put it on your radar for next year."

So the CRL did something we hardly ever do: we waited.

Before: Kids love rows! Not.
We have a gorgeous library. It's located on the second floor of our recently-renovated building and boasts high ceilings, carpeted floors, and lots of windows. The only thing that's missing is a librarian. And students. Like so many school districts, our town eliminated the librarian position years ago. In place of a full-time librarian is an overworked and underpaid EA who must split her time between our middle school and the elementary school next door. This year, our middles have access to the library exactly one period a week.

Our design - and it worked!
Over the years, the CRL have done their best to fill the gap and keep good books in the hands of our children. Erin's room became a mini-library where students would come to browse for books. Mary's room served as the annex next door - if Erin didn't have a book, Mary usually did. It wasn't unusual for kids to walk in while we were teaching, find what they were looking for, and silently sign it out.

Meanwhile, our *actual* library became a lot of things it was never intended to be: a warehouse, an A/V storage closet, a museum, and a faculty meeting area. Our 500 students knew it primarily as That Room We Walk Through to Get to the Computer Lab.

This was not okay.
One word: Weeding.

Summer of 2015, it was Go Time and we were thrilled with the opportunity. Not only would we reinvigorate the library, we'd address a few other pressing issues, namely:

1 - Erin's need for classroom space
2 - Mary's need for hours for her administrator's license

Such a good egg!
We had visions of spending a few fun-filled hours in the library then heading out for al fresco lunches. We'll have all afternoon to hang out at the pool! We'll take Friday off! It'll be done in a week, we thought. 10-15 hours, tops.

*cue maniacal laughter*

This one was in Beast-Mode.
This thing was like an onion - an out-dated, emotionally-charged, allergen-filled onion - containing more layers than we care to remember. More than once we looked at each other and silently - okay, not so silently - acknowledged how far over our heads we actually were; but there was no choice other than to just keep swimming. We did research on the fly, discovering long-forgotten policies and steps to the process we never even knew existed. It was a summer spent taking two steps forward and one step back.

We got to the pool twice. Mary's children spent some serious bonding time with our library scanning system. Her 3rd grader boasts newly-developed pecs after loading and unloading carts. As for hours, we stopped counting after one hundred.
CRL - with power tools!

Pretty purple ones!
This past August, we spent each and every morning in our school library in the hopes of transforming it into a book-filled sanctuary worthy of our extraordinary kiddos.

Though school opened without the project being complete, we are extremely proud of our work-in-progress and the kids are already excited. More than once, a student has come up the stairs and gasped "Oh! It looks so GOOD! Thank you!!!"
They look at a space with half-filled shelves. They see spartan wooden chairs where - we hope - comfy beanbags will someday reside. And still they see beauty. Kids curl up on the bare floor, finding the nooks we created just for them. And that's more than enough to keep us going.
New configuration
This summer, we managed to weed the entire non-fiction collection, rearrange the shelving, and carve out a classroom. Just yesterday, we placed a furniture wishlist in the hands of our Principal.
In our next post, we'll outline the steps we followed in case any of you are clinically insane find yourselves inspired to do the same.
- Mary and Erin