5.3 Personnel, Funding, & Facilities
Candidates organize library facilities to enhance the use of information resources and services and to ensure equitable access to all resources for all users.
“The library is truly the hub of the school, and the center of its focus is the student. The library is a structured but comfortable and nurturing environment where the student’s rights as a reader are protected nd the student my feel safe to ask questions. The school library staff works tirelessly to serve the student, both directly by addressing his/her specific academic needs and personal interests and also indirectly by providing current and dynamic supplemental materials for use the the teachers’ classrooms.”
When I was charged with composing a mission statement for my future school library, this was the end product. Inherent in this stated dedication to serving the student population is the need organize the library in a manner that is both functional and appealing. The library must be conducive to the speedy retrieval of information meeting both academic and personal needs. It is essential that the library feature enough full class and independent study space to properly accommodate the student population. Equally important is the need to put a face on the hypothetical “student” mentioned. The student may have a physical, mental, or emotional impairment that may create a barrier to having the ability to fully benefit from the library resources. The specific layour selections I made in designing my ideal middle school library illustrate these important considerations.
I designed my school library with a middle school of over 1,000 students in mind. As designed, this library comfortably accomodates three classes with an additional class in the adjacent computer lab and still has space for small groups and students engaging in independent work. I loved having the opportunity to design library from the ground up because I do not think that my school’s library is orchestrated in the best possible way to facilitate effective learning and collaboration. In my current teaching placement, time in the library of the computer lab is truly a hot commodity during certain class periods and at certain times of the year. It gets to be very difficult for courses such as SAT Prep to provide students with consistent access to online materials and testing programs while also accommodating the flexibility needed for other classroom teachers to design lessons on the cutting edge of technology. I wanted to avoid these frustrations as much as possible with my design.
Students should be given as much opportunity for computer access as possible. With that in mind, I incorporated a class set of desktop computers into the main library in addition to the desktop computers in the attached computer lab. I included four portable laptop carts for use by classes in other areas of the library and/or in the classroom. Four additional computers are located within the school library specifically for access to the catalog system. Having now reached the conclusion of my school library internship, I would modify the computer configuration plan to incorporate portable tabletop work stations in place of or in addition to the laptop carts. When Parr’s Ridge Elementary in Carroll County opened, their principal had portable computer tables specially designed to fit through the school doorways. Rather than dealing with the issues of laptops not getting hooked back into the carts properly and other connectivity problems, the students at Parr’s Ridge are able to benefit from having portable desktop computer access in their classrooms. This struck me as a much more effective way to maintain flexible computer access.
Evident in my plan is the library’s close proximity to both the restroom and the elevator. I ensured that my library features multiple pathways in high traffic areas and that the space in between shelving units is adequate for allowing wheelchair bound or other physically handicapped students to access materials in the stacks. All centralized shelves (including the majority of the nonfiction collection) in the library are forty-eight inches in height or lower, allowing for easy access by students with physical disabilities or shorter statures. Shelving units against the walls are of the taller seventy-two inch model, allowing for the maximum amount of storage space without placing books too far out of the reach of students. I made sure that the nonfiction resources can be easily accessed without disrupting a class in session. End caps and bookstore type displays further permit the use of all resources by all users by providing storage for audiovisual and periodical library holdings.
I had given very little thought to even the need to maintain open sightlines in the school library prior to this assignment, which was a learning moment for me at the time I designed the facility plan. I had also thought little about the special attention that certain student populations might need in order to receive equitable access. A session I attended at this year’s MASL conference brought to the forefront of my planning students who may be blind and how to best ensure that the library is serving their needs. I learned about the possibility of incorporating signage and call number labels featuring braille lettering or even voice recording to notify the student of the call numbers housed on that shelf, as well as a need to incorporate braille editions into the library collection – features which I had not built into my plan previously. As the presenter recommended, I would put on my “disability glasses” before making any revisions to my library layout.
The library is most effectively utilized when multiple classes are able to congregate within its walls without disturbing one another. Each class with reserved library space should have equal access to both print and digital resources. Likewise, an effective library layout is one in which there is always room for small groups and independent students to work. The library must be spacious enough to equitably accommodate each of the course sections throughout the year and should feature shelving arrangements and walkways suitable for navigation by students with physical disabilities. My library facility plan is an excellent example of how to organize a middle school’s “library facilities to enhance the use of information resources and services and to ensure equitable access to all resources for all users.”