Library Facility Design • Instructional Spaces

One of the most enjoyable aspects of any library redesign is thinking about how you can enhance the learning and instructional spaces available to your students and teachers. As discussed in the Guiding Principles for Learning Spaces lesson, your school's pedagogy should drive the library's form.

In broad terms, these learning spaces can be broken down into four categories: large group space, small group space, independent work space, and makerspace. These spaces may overlap or be named differently in your library and there's no one right design for every library. But, with that in mind, let's look at features you might want to consider for each of these four areas.

A large group space should provide enough room for at least one full class to gather. Maintaining this space's flexibility is paramount. Use moveable furniture, such as light (but durable) tables and stackable chairs. Also contemplate an easy-to-use setup for presentations—a projector, screen, and laptop should do the trick. And don't forget to plan for acoustics. How will the sound carry in the space? Do you need a microphone and speaker set up to make sure all voices can be heard? When there are large-group events—like author visits or PTA meetings—can this space be expanded by moving some of the nearby smaller bookcases?

Small group spaces also benefit from being adaptable. How can you quickly reconfigure spaces to make room for a variety of learning activities? What about small, mobile, flip-top tables? Can you use high-back chairs or mobile screens to create a sense of privacy for groups? How can you encourage collaboration? There are dry-erase tables for group brainstorming--or, for a budget-friendlier option, simply provide small whiteboards to groups.

How can you incorporate student mobility in these spaces? Allowing them to move around increases blood flow to the brain, benefiting learning. In thinking about small group spaces, remember to go back to the feedback you received from students and teachers in the needs assessment.

Although libraries are no longer silent fortresses of books, students still need quiet areas accessible to them in the library. As you are designing or refurbishing your library, include "nooks" for students to spend alone time, where they can have a sense of privacy, while remaining visible. Inserting comfortable chairs into corners is one easy way to accomplish this. Can you enrich these areas with glimpses of nature, art, or surprise objects? Create zones where students can work independently or take a moment to recharge with a book. Additionally, some students, especially those who experience sensory issues related to noise, may need quiet spaces to work with support staff. Plan for this to make your library an accessible space for all learners.

Finally, think about the possibility of including an "active learning space"—perhaps, if it's in your library's parlance, a makerspace. This can be as simple as a repurposed rolling AV cart with organized supplies for students to access in the small group workspace. Or, it can be a dedicated area of the library with durable work surface tables and mobile stools on an easy-to-clean floor. Include standing height tables when possible. A nearby sink can go a long way in keeping the space functioning cleanly. Creating some separation from other areas of the library can help decrease distraction from the sounds and sights of the makerspace. Maybe some of your technology space is integrated here or it may be in a separate area. Consider ease of clean up in this space to maintain the longevity of the space.

As you map out your new library design, keeping in mind these four types of uses—large group, small group, independent, and active—can help you design a space that works for your school community and encourages learning for all students.

MLA Citation Editorial Team, SLC. "Library Facility Design: Instructional Spaces." School Library Connection, January 2019,

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Entry ID: 2171742

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