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Landscape Your Library


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A presentation about creating an inviting school library based on soundpedagogical principles.

A presentation about creating an inviting school library based on soundpedagogical principles.

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  • 1. Barbara Braxton 2009
  • 2. The successful worker of the 21st century will
    • be a knowledge worker
    • 3. have a strong formal education
    • 4. be able to apply theory to a practical world
    • 5. be able to continually update their knowledge
    • 6. be able to continually upgrade their skills
    • 7. be committed to lifelong learning
    They will need to be able to access, evaluate, interpret and use information more than ever before and will be expected to do so in both their personal and professional lives.
  • 8. The library is the information center
    of the school and its staff are the
    information specialists.
    We know how to ask the questions
    and provide the services that will
    allow the knowledge worker to make
    meaning from the information they gather.
    It is in the library, and through the programs and productsthat we offer, that the knowledge workers
    of the future will be nurtured.
  • 9. But if they are to be nurtured, they need to be in the library.
    Therefore it needs to be a place which invites them in.
  • 10. What does
    your library
    look like?
  • 11. Is it a place that invites and excites?
  • 12. Research into learning tells us
    the brain functions at many levels simultaneously as thoughts, emotions, imagination, predispositions and physiology interact and exchange information with the environment
    the brain absorbs information both directly and indirectly, continually aware of what is beyond the immediate focus of attention, to the extent that 70% of what is learned is not directly taught.
    Learning involves conscious and unconscious processes, including experience, emotion and sensory input. Much of our learning occurs and is processed below the level of immediate awareness so that understanding may not happen until much later after there has been time for reflection and assimilation
    the brain is ‘plastic’ because its structure is changed (or ‘rewired’) by exposure to new experiences so the more we use it, the better it gets.
    the brain is stimulated by challenge and inhibited by threat, so students in safe, secure environments, both mental and physical, can allow their cognitive brains to dominate their emotional brains and will explore, investigate, take risks and learn.
    30%-60% of the brain’s wiring comes from our genetic makeup (nature) and 40%-70% comes from environmental influences and impact (nurture)
    The two critical factors in learning are novelty and interactive specific feedback
  • 13. World 1The world inside me
    My thoughts and memories
    World 2The world I know directly
    What I have seen and what I have done
    World 3
    The world I have heard about
    What I have read or heard aboutor seen on television
    World 4
    The world of possibilitieswhat I don’t know about and I don’t know what is in it because I don’t know what I don’t know
  • 14. The library is the gateway to the world.
  • 15. The library allows us to
    • understand and shape World 1
    • 16. revisit our experiences in World 2,
    • 17. explore World 3 more thoroughly and
    • 18. have a peek into World 4.
    The astute teacher-librarian will realize the impact these research findings can have on the services we offer and how we offer them.
  • 19. With a little imagination, it is easy to compromise between austerity and flamboyance.
    Your library can be a place where the students choose to be even when they don’t have to, as well as a must-see on the principal’s itinerary when prospective parents are shown through the school.
    And you will know that the environment is built around sound pedagogical principles.
  • 20. Whether you are planning a brand new library or renovating an established one it is important to go back to basics and identify
    • what is the purpose of your school library
    • 21. who are its target users
    • 22. what are their interests, needs, abilities and priorities
    • 23. what essential services must be provided to meet those needs and priorities
    • 24. which parts of the library are best suited to providing those services
    • 25. what is the library’s role in helping students develop an awareness for and appreciation of aesthetics
    Answering those questions means you can develop a plan that organizes your space and provides you with a priority list of projects.
  • 26. Create a scale floor plan of your space and mark in the fixed furniture and fittings, windows and power supplies.
    Check your building or district fire safety regulations so you comply with their entry/exit requirements, what can be put on walls and hung from ceilings and any other constraints.
    Using your priority list, place spaces that are dependent on those non-negotiables such as your quiet reading spot near the natural light and the computers near the power sources.
    Top priority, however, must go to being able to see as much of the space as possible from the circulation desk or wherever it is that you spend the majority of your time. This may even mean having closed-circuit camera surveillance because the legalities of duty-of-care demand that such supervision is essential.
  • 27. Duty of care requires “everything ‘reasonably practicable’ to be done to protect the health and safety of others at the workplace” and includes
    • providing and maintaining a safe environment and equipment
    • 28. information and instruction about the use of equipment
    • 29. supervision of students to ensure safe work practices
    • 30. monitoring conditions at any workplace to ensure the highest safety standards are maintained.
    Education authorities are particularly cognisant of duty of care as society becomes more litigious.
    As well as duty of care, as educators we are also charged with being in loco parentis which means being “in place of the parent”. Therefore we have extra responsibilities relating to student supervision so it is critical that we take all possible precautions.
  • 31. Consider the unique aspects of being a child.
    What to us seems to be a regular space and regular proportions can be very overwhelming for a small child.
    So we need to consider bringing the space down to their size and making it as friendly as possible so they feel that this is a place for them and they are welcome in it.
    High ceilings that seem to soar almost to heaven, can be “brought down” by hanging things like kites, or signs or swathes of fabric.
    Connect the floor and the ceiling with Jack and the Beanstalk or other displays, or build semi-permanent displays on top of shelves.
    All fool the eye into thinking that this is a manageable space to operate in.
  • 32. First impressions are critical so what happens at the front door is really important.
    Have the children create a Welcome sign and surround it with the word in all the languages spoken in your school. Collect dolls in national costumes for added interest.
    Add fun to your Returns box.
    Water features are always welcoming as is an aquarium.
  • 33. Create a large display to catch the eye as people enter the library to show the library is an exciting and interesting place to be, somewhere where it is worthwhile to spend time because there are always new things to discover
    The best are
    • big, bright, bold and beautiful
    • 34. seasonal, topical, whimsical or
    • incorporate the students’ world
    or something new
    • offer interactivity
    • 35. include books which can be
    borrowed while interest is
    • involve the students’ work
  • A seasonal favourite
  • 36. Time on a Line - the history of life on Earth
    The Missing Link - the development of human beings
    The Land Before Time - living in the Stone Age
    Pictures of the Past - the art of prehistoric peoples
    Frozen in Time - creatures of the Ice Age
    Fire - friend or foe
    Tools of the Trade - the magic of metal
    Grave Concerns - how do we dispose of our dead?
    God-kings - the pharaohs of Egypt
    The Sun - heavenly body or heavenly being?
    The Phoenicians - the first boat people
  • 37. Homer’s Heroes - who was Odysseus
    Zeus & Co - the gods of Greece
    Victims of Vesuvius - the fate of Pompeii
    Mystery of the Orient - the history of China
    Atlantis - fact or fiction
    Triskaidekaphobia and other superstitions
    Dare to Dream
    Mysteries of the Deep - shipwrecks
    Treasure - what would you take to a desert island?
  • 38. Our Place in Space
    Food for Thought
    The Shapes of Things
    Extreme Sports
    Chocoholics Anonymous
    Skeletons in the Closet
    Words, Words, Words
    Making Music
    Numbers Up
  • 39. Have a special story teller’s chair
    Soft toys say, “Welcome, Come and sit, stay and play.”
    They offer someone to talk to, to read to and to tell secrets to.
    They teach how to cuddle and care for those who don’t know how.
  • 40. Independent access to the resources by the students is critical.
    Instant gratification is expected.
    Eye-catching displays, and colorful covers rule.
    Although orderly, organized access is imperative for staff
    and important for students,
    rows and rows of shelves can be daunting.
    Create sections that make the popular titles easy to find
    by even the youngest patron or the most reluctant reader.
  • 41. Group the most popular
    An array of authors
  • 44. Select-a-Series
  • 45. Timeless Tales
    Family Favourites
    Have a Laugh
  • 46. Grouping means
    • the students can find all the works by their favourite authors quickly
    • 47. all the books in a series are collected together
    • 48. shelves are not so tightly packed or left scattered and shattered after a class has been in
    • 49. shelving is easy and quick
    all the fairy tales (usually at 398.2) under the banner of Timeless Tales –these are the first choice of the new entrant students and being able to find familiar favourites gives them a feeling of confidence and independence
    all the perennial favourite characters such as Winnie-the-Pooh, Franklin, Spot, Arthur, and Elmer under the banner of Family Favourites –the children feel very grown up being able to find these for themselves and show their parents who often come in after to school to borrow together.
    all the series in their own tubs under the banner Select-a-Series–ice cream containers, lunch boxes and planter boxes are sturdy, cheap and easy to obtain
    All the puzzle books in a collection called Pick-a-Puzzle
    all the works by popular and prolific authors together in their own tubs.
    If you see a display stand in a shop, ask if you can have it when their display is over for your library. Cover unwanted advertising with colorful, self-adhesive paper, turn the header board inside out and create your own.
    Ask for the posters and any other paraphernalia that accompanies the display and then re-create the display in your library.
    Even though it make take some time to arrange your collection like this, the increase in circulation and students’ discussions and recommendations will make it more than worthwhile.
  • 50. Group your read-alongs together and create a listening station
  • 51. By carefully considering how and where you will place these sections you can build a series of “rooms” or spaces that also help to make that barn-like space child-friendly. If you have space, create some comfortable seating areas where reading can be done in comfort.
  • 52. Research shows the key factor in book selection is the book’s cover, so it makes sense to display as many books with their covers showing as you can.
    Publishers pay bookstores for a book to be displayed with the cover facing out, because they know that the cover sells the product.
    Make mini-displays wherever you can to give the students greater access.
  • 53. Encourage the children to have their say.
  • 54. Make your non fiction area
    student friendly
    with lots of signs and supports.
    Adapt the DDC to meet your students’ needs and understanding.
    Remember, the more divisions you have, the easier it is for them to select as well as shelve.
  • 55. The key is signage.
    Unlock your space with as many as you can.
    Put them as close to eye level as practical.
    large clear letters
    dark sans serif font on a light and bright background
    a consistent colour scheme for related signs
    pictures or objects to illustrate words
    fishing line to hang mobiles
    correct spelling
  • 56. Support students’ reading by ensuring displays have captions or even provocative questions that lead to further investigations.
    Use children’s work samples or charts that support their learning.
    Whenever possible have the students design and construct the charts to give a sense of ownership..
  • 57. Use the ideas of the professionals
    to create your displays.
    Look at displays in shops to see how they are constructed and then take the ideas and elements and reproduce them.
    Think of it as recycling – their research and its output into your environment – two displays for the cost of one!
  • 58. Look at the colours that are used to attract the eye – the younger generation likes garish and bright, not moody and subtle
    Different levels of lighting literally create variations of light and shade, and thus, different levels of emotions. Although your reading corner should be near natural light, add a regular reading lamp to build atmosphere.
    Ensure workspaces are brightly lit but illuminate special displays with soft, gentle lighting to help draw attention to the space it helps define. Christmas lights can add sparkle to displays all year round.
    Music and sound effects can also add atmosphere to a display, but keep the volume low out of consideration for all users.
  • 59. The smell of hot coffee and home-cooking is enticing as smells stimulate. But think of those with allergies - even a simple vase of fresh flowers can be a trigger.
    Use objects that the students can touch and investigate so the display becomes interactive.
    Place your returns box and checkout counter near the main exit but allow enough space for one class to be coming in while another is checking out.
    Have an enticing main display near the entrance to not only to attract visitors but also give those waiting in the checkout queue something to look at and maybe borrow. Books placed here can increase circulation exponentially.
    Be aware of traffic aisles, especially those to emergency exits. Watch where your students go as soon as they come in and make sure the pathway is wide enough. If you want to highlight a ‘slow’ section of your collection, make the display near this pathway.
  • 60. If you have a special area where you want the children to linger longer, add a rug on top of the carpet.
    Use short, low shelving to maintain the feel of openness and create extra area for signage and displays on the ends. No shelf should be higher than the youngest child can reach. Stools and steps invite accidents. Put tall shelves near walls. and use the top shelves for displays only.
    Increase circulation by suggesting other titles by the author, other titles in the genre, other titles on the subject with “If you like … try …” bookmarks.
    Include a “Recommended Reads” section near your circulation desk to temporarily house the students’ current favorites, and slip a card in the cover saying who recommended it.
  • 61. Look at the displays in shop windows. Analyse what attracted you, how it is constructed
    and how you can adapt it.
    All resources on display must be able to be borrowed at the time so the child’s curiosity
    can be satisfied immediately. Select topic which can be supported with plenty of resources.
    Get ideas for layouts and fripperies from scrapbooking magazines
    Increase reading opportunities by creating captions for everything on display.
    Create challenges for the students based on the display. If your theme is flight, investigate which style of paper airplane flies the longest distance.
    Consider using the display as a draw card for raising funds for charity
    Cover large boxes with fabric to increase display space and present books between eye and waist level.
    Swathes of fabric are excellent for backdrops and ceilings and covering surfaces. They define the space, “lower” high ceilings and are reusable. Look for texture as well as color and pattern as children like to touch them
  • 62. Christmas lights and decorations make glitzy additions to fantasy displays.
    Use fishing line for strength, durability and invisibility when hanging things
    Look at using everyday materials in different ways.
    Calendars are an excellent source of pictures for country landscapes, artists’ works theme timelines, animals and almost everything else. Buy them in mid-January when they are heavily discounted.
    Some displays can be semi-permanent such as a Highdays and Holidays display.
    Just change the month and add appropriate resources.
    Make displays interactive so children can become involved with them.
    Even shaking or plucking an instrument adds interest.
    Invite the children to design or contribute to a display. Use their writing, their drawings
    and their models. Have them find the resources to accompany it.
  • 63. View your displays as presentation models for the students so they learn what elements are important and how they can be arranged. Make everything you do suitable for a high-quality gallery.
    Create displays that are not the center of current classroom instruction. Even though it is tempting to integrate in this way, the resources need to be in use in the classrooms.
    Search the Internet for pictures of other school libraries and adapt the ideas you find.
    Get to know your local El Cheapos, charity stores and recycling shops well
    Always give your display a catchy title and consider music and lighting.
    Remember your imagination
    is your best friend
    and closest ally.
  • 64. .
    With just a little knowledge and lots of imagination you can make your library a model of the very best in student learning environments and know that you are putting the world of words into the world of kids.
  • 65. References
    Caine R. and Caine, G. 1994 Making Connections: Teaching and the Human Brain, Menlo Park, Calif.: Addison-Wesley
    Drucker, P. F. 1999 Management Challenges for the 21st Century New York: Harper Business
    Drucker, P. F. 2001 The Essential Drucker New York: HarperCollins
    Industry Commission, Work, Health and Safety, Report No. 47, Sept 1995, National Occupational Health and Safety Commission, Australia
    Available at
    Jensen, E. 1998 Teaching with the brain in mind Alexandra, VA: ASCD
    Oliver, M. & Christenson, J. 2001 The Rain Gutter Literacy Revolution
    Available at
    Rippel, C. 2003 What libraries can learn from bookstores : applying the bookstore model to public libraries
    Available at
    Rowling, J. K. 1997 Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone London: Bloomsbury
    Images are the author’s own or have been shared under a Creative Commons licence. Should you believe there to be one in breach of copyright, please contact the author.
  • 66. Landscaping Your Library
    Barbara Braxton
    Teacher Librarian
    COOMA NSW 2630
    July 2006
    Updated October 2009