Hints and tips for planning a new school library

Hints and tips for planning a new school library

When I look back over the many libraries that we’ve created for primary schools I am aware that the best results are achieved when we’ve been able to successfully combine the school’s vision for their library with BookSpace’s understanding of how library spaces work and how reading is physically presented.

It’s a fine balance, if we think we know best and try and impose our ideas on the school we are in danger of designing a library that doesn’t meet your specific needs. However, if the school has very fixed ideas about what should go into the library and where it should be sited there is a risk that the potential of the space is not maximised.

So how we can strike the ideal balance? In my experience the best approach is for the school to think through how they plan to use the library, which year groups will be using it and when, what type and how many books are going to be displayed in the library and what type of furniture is required to achieve all of this. Hand this information over to BookSpace and our designers are well placed to plot your requirements onto your library plan. Our design team are in touch with library trends, they have a knack of being able to not only visualise what will fit where but also what looks good – take a look at our Design Gallery for some examples of their work. What’s more, they ensure all the health and safety considerations are taken care of.

Here’s a simple checklist, with a few pointers, of things to consider when creating your vision for the library.

1. How do you plan to use the library

Whole class visits, intervention groups, storytime, one-to-one reading, children using the library independently at lunchtime, group study, homework?

Think through what type of furniture and space you might need to meet these various requirements, for example if you plan to use the library for intervention groups, do you need tables and chairs, if so how many tables seating how many children at each. What is the impact of this on the look and feel of the space – in our experience if a school tries to include too many tables and chairs the library starts to look and feel like a classroom and the books and reading become secondary. Whilst we understand that in many schools space is at a premium if you try and get the library to accommodate too many functions it ends up doing nothing well and the positive library experience is lost.

2. Which year groups will be using the library

Will the whole school use the library, do you need a separate area for KS1 which is at a lower height and feels more accessible to younger children or is it just going to be used by KS2 and if so do you want a more grown up feel.

3. What type and how many books will be kept in the library

Will the library have fiction, non-fiction, chapter books, picturebooks, magazines, graphic novels, CDs/DVDs, audiobooks, guided/banded books and if so roughly how many of each?

A couple of things to consider – we work with some schools who believe the more books they can fit in the library the better however research shows that fewer books well displayed will work harder and get read more frequently read than hundreds of spine-out books with no covers visible. The key is to be realistic – at BookSpace we let you know how many books your design can accommodate and our most successful libraries are where we have been able to get the right balance of face-out display and spine-out capacity. Read their stories here

I would also urge you to consider if you want/need to keep banded/guided reading in your library, sometimes space means that you don’t have an option but if you want the library to be a child-centred, independent reading hub it’s not a good idea to take up too much space with books that are either only accessed by teachers or where the children’s choice is restricted to a particular range and/or colour.

4. IT requirements

Do you have a library management system? Will there be computers in the library and if so how many?

It’s worth bearing in mind that the type of technology used in schools is changing and the need for rows and rows of computers is diminishing as the hardware becomes more mobile. If you want to include computer workstations in your library it’s worth trying to think ahead, will you still need this facility in a year or two’s time?

Hopefully these pointers will help you to plan your new reading space and get the best results for your school.

If you need any more help, you can always give us a call or drop us an email sales@bookspaceforschools.co.uk.