Less is more

Less is more

Portfolio and tape measure in hand, I spend my working days visiting schools and meeting staff to discuss their vision for their school library design. One thing I’ve learnt in this role – every school is different. Some schools have a very clear vision and know exactly what they want while others look to us for our expertise and advice. Either way it’s a really interesting process and I enjoy working with staff to help them clarify how they want their library to look, how the children use the library and what physical features are to be incorporated into the designs – tables, computers, soft-seating, rugs etc.

One area that can sometimes be difficult to resolve is the number of books that are going to be kept in the library. There seems to be a commonly held view that the more books the better the library but from my experience, this isn’t always the case. Whilst working up school library designs, I’m occasionally asked to include shelving capacity for far more books than the space can comfortably accommodate. The result being shelving units that are so high that many of the books are out of children’s reach, rows and rows of spines with not a book cover in sight and a very dense shelving layout limiting space to comfortably browse, sit or read. I have seen many libraries that look more like a storage facility rather than an inviting, child-centred and interactive space that the whole school can enjoy.

Here are a few things to consider when planning how many books you want to keep in your library:

Out with the old

Do you want to keep all of your current stock in the new library? Are there any books that are out-dated or in poor condition? Having a library with up-to-date and fresh looking books will look so much better than a library crammed with out-dated, dog-eared books. Which one would you choose to take off the shelf?

Our database says…

Library management software can be a fantastic tool but often I find that the number of books the system tells you that you have in school is not always an accurate reflection of the number that you want to eventually keep in the library? You’ll probably find that some of the books are in classrooms, on loan or have never been returned (and indeed never likely to be returned). Avoid a library with empty shelves by thinking about how many books you actually have, or ultimately want to keep in the library, which is not necessarily the same as thing as the number your computer system tells you.