Primary school library bookcases

Case Study: Berkhamsted School

Berkhamsted School is an independent school in Hertfordshire for pupils aged 3-18. The school offers single-sex and co-educational teaching for almost 1,500 pupils across four sites in Berkhamsted.

Berkhamsted Prep School

The Prep School which caters for pupils aged 7-11 actively encourages its pupils to read and develop a life-long reading habit. The school has two part time librarians and pupils have always been encouraged to visit the library during their break times as well as having class visits to the library time-tabled into the school week.

“We wanted to encourage our pupils to read for fun and cultivate a habit for reading” says Rachel Scott, Librarian “but the library was small and cramped and the shelving was old-fashioned and heavy. We wanted to make it brighter, more modern, less formal and essentially somewhere that our pupils would enjoy”. The decision was taken to relocate the library and to turn a classroom into the new library. The new space had the advantage of more windows and therefore became a brighter space almost immediately. Work was carried out to remove a sink from the space and to knock down a wall which connected the classroom to an entrance area where pupils stored coats and bags. This resulted in a large open plan space to work with.

One of the key requirements for the new space was to provide lots of seating for pupils to sit and read. “We wanted a couple of formal study tables as the library was still to be used for class visits but we also wanted to offer the children soft seating, reading corners and bean bags to encourage them to spend some time in the library reading” says Lorraine Miles, Librarian. “We also wanted to have a few PCs in the space for children to use the library catalogue and we wanted some way of showcasing different reading materials. We have audio books, magazines, newspapers and graphic novels as well as books and were keen to show pupils that reading comes in many different forms”.

The BookSpace design team worked up three different plans, each one incorporating the schools’ requirements but offering a slightly different approach. Each one was accompanied by a quotation and a breakdown of the number of books that could be displayed in each layout. “A lot of schools we have worked with find this useful” says Helen Thomas, Director, BookSpace. “For each design we are able to show how many picturebooks, non-fiction, fiction and chapterbooks the space will hold. It puts the designs into context and gives the school something tangible to work with”.

One of the key requirements for the new space was to provide lots of seating for pupils to sit and read. “We wanted a couple of formal study tables as the library was still to be used for class visits but we also wanted to offer the children soft seating, reading corners and bean bags to encourage them to spend some time in the library reading” says Lorraine Miles, Librarian. “We also wanted to have a few PCs in the space for children to use the library catalogue and we wanted some way of showcasing different reading materials. We have audio books, magazines, newspapers and graphic novels as well as books and were keen to show pupils that reading comes in many different forms”.

Children reading in library School library bookcases with wedge seat Mobile library shelving in school library

The BookSpace design team worked up three different plans, each one incorporating the schools’ requirements but offering a slightly different approach. Each one was accompanied by a quotation and a breakdown of the number of books that could be displayed in each layout. “A lot of schools we have worked with find this useful” says Helen Thomas, Director, BookSpace. “For each design we are able to show how many picturebooks, non-fiction, fiction and chapterbooks the space will hold. It puts the designs into context and gives the school something tangible to work with”.

“We were really impressed when we received the plans” says Lorraine. “The laminate & fabric samples were a big help as we wanted to show our parents, pupils and teachers and we could see the true colours and get a feel for the quality”.

The BookSpace designers worked with the library team to fine-tune their preferred layout and ensure everything from their wish list was included. “The initial design was excellent and needed only minor alterations” says Rachel. Jonathan, Designer at BookSpace, said “I wanted pupils to step into the library and feel curious about what was around the next corner. I used shelving to create some smaller spaces and corners where they could browse the books and then curl up on a bean bag, Button Seat or Egg Seats.

The final space guides pupils from a fiction area at the front of the library into a non-fiction area at the back of the library where classes can use the study tables & PCs. The fiction area successfully displays a variety of different reading materials including paperbacks on BookSpace shelving, graphic novels using a Graphic Novel Unit, magazines and newspapers on a Picturebook Wall Unit and a bespoke Audio Storage Unit houses audio books, CD players and headphones. The focal point of the library though is a Mobile Bookcase with a 3-way seat in the middle. The bonus of this configuration is that if the school have an event such an author visit and needs a bit more space, then they can move this away and have a large space in the middle of the library to use.

“We’re delighted with our new library” says Rachel. “We have already seen a marked increase in the number of pupils using the space of their own accord which is great – just what we set out to do”.

Berkhamsted Pre-prep Schoo

Berkhamsted Pre-prep School provides education for children aged 3-7. A large part of the school was recently redeveloped to provide additional facilities for the children. The redevelopment provided a good opportunity to rehouse the school library which, despite being well-used, was small and rather cluttered. The redevelopment includes a beautiful round room at the end of one building with a large concertina doorway stretching across one end of the space and floor to ceiling windows around most of the perimeter. It is the perfect space for a new library.

The school had a strong reading culture anyway but wanted this new space to cement this. The space needed to create a relaxed environment where children could feel comfortable sitting to read but also provide a couple of ‘study’ tables where children could read big books together or look through non-fiction books. BookSpace used the shape of the room to influence the final design which features a 3-way Mobile Bookcase configuration in the centre coupled with Egg Seats and Button Seat to provide plenty of opportunities for pupils to browse, pause and read.

Teacher, Louise Wintle, says “Everyone loves it and it’s being well-used. It’s definitely affected the children’s attitudes to reading. They’re very excited about the new area and take pride in keeping it looking good. I have heard children saying how much they love the new library…and look forward to their class session in there.”

School children reading books in their primary school library