Library Facility Design • Assessing Community Needs

Just as there is no one-size-fits-all learning model, there is no one-size-fits-all library design. In fact, the key to successful library facility design is that it is responsive to the needs of your students, specifically. So the first step in any library redesign--big or small--is assessing the needs of your learning community.

How are you going to gather this information? It can be done in four simple and concurrent steps: focusing on mission, observation, data, and analysis.

First, refocus on your school's mission statement and core values. These will be guiding principles for you to ensure that the space integrates into the school as a whole. For instance, if your school's mission is to create "active and engaged citizens of a global society," your designs should include space for student collaboration and discussion.

Second, observe your students and teachers in the library. How do they move through the space? Where do they congregate? When do they get frustrated or seem at a loss? Where do they seem animated and/or productive? What questions about the space do they ask you? For instance, are students consistently congested at the makerspace cart? Does the new book display rarely get noticed? Make observations and notes over a period of time to pick up on patterns.

As part of this step, spend a few moments each day observing students in other areas of the school...classrooms, the cafeteria, outdoor spaces, hallways, etc. Notice how their behavior relates to the space they are in. What patterns do you see? How might these behaviors apply to the library setting?

Third, conduct a needs assessment by gathering data directly from the students, parents, teachers, and administrators. It is important to get input from all of these stakeholders. We've got a downloadable template for you to get started with and adapt to your school's community. Find out what their priorities are for learning in the library and what values are important to them. Discover what ideas they have for their ideal library space.

When talking with or surveying teachers, find out what they would want in the space for them to teach a class in the library or to use it as a workspace. The more connected the space is to teachers' needs, the more likely they will be to use it on a regular basis, increasing opportunities for collaboration.

Don't forget to include the needs of you and your library assistants in this as well. Consider what is important to you for workflow management.

Fourth, analyze the activities that will happen in the library space. They might include: full class and small group instruction, small group collaboration, individual work, quiet reading, storytelling, browsing, special events, makerspace projects, and more.

With the information you've gathered in hand, you're ready to start exploring how to adjust your collection, technology, and instructional spaces to meet your community's needs.

MLA Citation Editorial Team, SLC. "Library Facility Design: Assessing Community Needs." School Library Connection, January 2019,

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Entry ID: 2171739

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