If you are lucky enough to get the chance to make physical changes to your library space, it can be difficult to know where to start, especially if the space has been used the same way or looked the same way for a long time. Some people get to do a redesign with new flexible furniture or some soft seating (or both!), and others may get new bookshelves to work with. For some, it’s just the chance to move things around and change some paint.
I recently took over a high school library that hasn’t changed much in over 60 years. The Media Center includes a lobby, some computer labs, a textbook room, and one really large room. All of it was a sea of beige. There were computers as far as the eye could see. Recently, the school shifted to a more one-to-one model with laptop carts in every classroom, so the need for all those computers was no longer there. Last school year, before I was hired, the library got all new tables and chairs and a new circulation desk. It helped to have new furniture, but since I wasn’t part of the purchasing process, I had to figure out how I was going to use what was ordered.
When you think about painting the walls of a school library, somewhere in the thought process is the discovery that to paint the walls, you have to pack up all the books on the shelves that touch those walls. While ending the year at my previous school, I had to pack up thousands of books to move the shelves for new carpet, so I really didn’t want to do that again. Sometimes a little color can go a long way, so I started considering areas that I could add paint to without making my to-do list extensively longer.
The school colors at my school are a rich green, black, and white. The new tables purchased are flexible, with a white/gray wood tone on top, and the chairs are very what we like to call “Mel High green.” While I’m all for school spirit, my goal was to really brighten up the space, and you just can’t do that with those colors. Knowing this, I started doing some research trying to find photos of school libraries that had green incorporated in the design but weren’t super dark. I found one image of a library that had the same shade of green but had also incorporated other shades of green – like lime green and some shades of aqua. As soon as I saw it, I knew what direction I wanted to go in.
Choosing paint samples isn’t really one of my top strengths, but I’m very fortunate that I have two friends who have backgrounds in interior design. They came and met me at the school over the summer. I showed them my inspiration pictures, gave them my very large pile of paint samples, and we walked the space while I shared my vision and what I was hoping to achieve. From there, they helped me narrow down the shades, consider the light sources, and choose colors I could pull in to support and brighten without clashing with those brand-new chairs.
Everyone may not have a design team ready to jump to work, but when doing a revamp, it’s really important to consider your network of people, their skill sets, and the people who are involved in the school community. There’s a tremendous chance there’s someone you can bounce ideas off that can help you narrow the choices.
From there, I pitched my color ideas to my principal, got approval, and the process started. I was really fortunate that my school had our custodial team paint for me over the summer. It helped me continue to work on other things that needed to be done, and the paint made a tremendous difference in the space. It began to feel like a completely new room.
From there, I spray painted all the book carts and tv carts other really bright colors. I painted the chipped-up black cafe tables from the lobby. I ordered brightly colored baskets to go on the tables to add pops of color. My mom ordered brightly colored throw pillows for the vintage chairs I found – the only soft seating available. My husband was a champion and came and hung 100 feet of color-changing LED lights. These small things made a huge difference, too, and were fairly inexpensive to change and can easily be changed again down the road.
From here, I needed to figure out how to set the room up in a way that would best work with my goals. I love teaching classes in the media center, but there wasn’t really a space that I could use set up for that, just a computer lab area. I really wanted a Makerspace area. I really wanted a hangout area. As I started looking around the room and really considering how to use it, I decided to make the back corner my teaching area and put a “campfire” reading area next to it, with a Makerspace area (complete with giant Lego wall) in the other back corner. The remaining areas became the hangout space with card games and board games on the tables. Once I started moving it and got things settled, I fell in love with how the space was set up. It felt so different.
We have been in school a few weeks now, and the students and staff have been incredibly receptive to the color changes. I hear a lot of comments about how happy it feels, how open the space feels, and how inviting the Media Center is, and some seemingly small changes have completely changed the entire feeling of the whole program.
If you are considering making some changes with colors or furniture rearrangement, or trying to find some small ways to make a big impact, I encourage you to consider paint, peel and stick decals and wallpaper, rearranging furniture, and finding things like baskets or containers that can add some color. When in doubt, spray paint something.
Carrie Friday Media Specialist
Carrie Friday is the Media Specialist at Melbourne High School in Melbourne, Florida, a 2018-19 Teacher of the Year Finalist for Brevard Public Schools, a 2019-20 Space Coast Public Service Heavy Lifter award winner, and was named a 2022 Woman Who Rocks for her community. She isn't afraid to take risks and will do just about anything to encourage the love of literacy and learning in students and teachers.
She is a co-founder of the #swms20bookchallenge. Friday is a Follett Community contributor and has presented best practices at the district level, FAME, AASL, FETC, and the Future Ready Librarian Summit. She’s hosted webinars on maker space, the #swms20bookchallenge, and advocacy. Friday’s library program was awarded the designation of a Florida Power Library School by the Florida Department of Education, and she has appeared on the Librarian Influencers podcast and School Librarians United podcast. She has served on the Florida SSYRA Award committee, FAME Conference committee as Author Chair, and currently serves on the Florida Association of Media in Education Board of Directors and Florida Teens Read Committee. She believes in innovation, collaboration, and the power of really good books.
She is also a wife to a rocket scientist and mom to the sweetest two girls you'll ever meet. She loves Gilmore Girls, Pinterest, coffee, and porch swings. She is a proud graduate of Auburn University. War Eagle!
Here is a collection of the 2023 Best Books lists, friends. Find the link to this collection and learn how to create one too.I love this time of year when all of the Best Books lists are announced. I always...
“So I can burn them,” was my sixteen-year-old daughter’s response to why there were two copies of The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros (1984) sitting on the kitchen table. My first instinct as a literacy lover was pure indignation....
Follett has partnered with Penguin Young Readers Group and NetGalley* to provide digital access to forthcoming titles through May 15. Get early access to readers’ favorite genres – like historical fiction, poetry, narrative nonfiction, and social issues. Preorder NowSummer at SqueeBy...
The Biggest Asks in Your District: Are These Familiar?To better understand how to support educators, we asked this question: “What are the biggest asks in your district?”The three most common responses were: To reduce costsTo increase efficiency with tools my district...
“Ooh! I know this!” Jaxon* cheered as he jumped out of his seat with his hand raised while simultaneously sharing his answer. While I could have criticized him for not waiting to be called on, how could I discourage a...
Your school or district recently adopted Follett Destiny®. Now what? Well, the first thing to know is that Follett Destiny is more than software.It’s a community and a commitment to ensuring every student has the resources they need to succeed academically....