Tag Archives: library spaces

Natalie’s nook – what every school library needs!

Natalie's nook

Don’t you just love it!

We do :)

Natalie Elliott is our very creative Library Technician who loves finding ways to make our Library spaces more interesting and inviting for our students. We recently purchased this chair thinking that it matched our colour scheme. It sat around for  awhile looking lovely, whilst unbeknownst to us, Natalie was brewing grand plans for it that had been seeded from her love of all things Pinterest. Her forays into that web of fascinating ideas shared by many, led to the idea for the clever shelving and the inviting lampshade that helps to make this space so cosy.

We are very lucky to have such dedicated staff like Natalie who spend time outside of working hours thinking of ideas for our library space. Natalie is currently studying at Charles Sturt University to obtain her Librarian qualifications.  I know that we endorse her skill set – let’s hope that any assignment about library design allows her to share this post as a reference!

Here’s another view from a different angle.

Natalie's nook 2

Thanks Natalie – we love it!

 

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Creating a Library for the future – Part two!

Recently, I wrote about our new library and how we had tried to create a library for Toorak College that would meet the future needs of our school. There are lots of photos in that post, but most were taken before our furniture had arrived. I thought I’d provide an update with more pictures and discuss some of the furniture choices we made.

Making spaces flexible was always a motivating factor behind our choices. We have flip tables on castors in our large conference space. The chairs are incredibly comfortable and are on a sled base. (We are still waiting for our full complement of chairs. In the photo above you can see some loan chairs that will be replaced with the orange 3D chairs once the next shipment arrives) The sled base makes them really easy to move around. We are constantly reinventing this space to meet the needs of large groups and special functions, so easy movement of the furniture is important. It’s not back breaking work sliding chairs and wheeling tables away! You’ll notice a portable interactive whiteboard off to the side in the picture above. We have three of these in our library and they can moved to where they are needed. Floorboxes dot the floor and have power and data points within them. They are constantly in use as our school is a 1:1 laptop environment and access to power is critical. There are large sliding doors that can close this room off, and we are finding it’s getting constant use.

What we’ve been really excited about this week was the arrival of what we call our ‘Snake Lounge’. This is a very large signature piece that winds its way through what we call the Learning Commons part of our library. It’s been enthusiastically embraced by students and staff alike. Seeing people’s reactions to it when they see it for the first time is incredibly rewarding. We are thrilled with how our vision was translated by the furniture craftsman, Abbas, who listened to what we described and built something that probably has surpassed our expectations. Judge for yourself from the following pictures.

 

It is beautiful! Watching the students use it is so gratifying. Today, during lunchtime, every part of it was being used. Some students were relaxing and talking while others were working at both the attached tables and the benches. The ottomans serve as both stools and tables for laptops and books. Once again, they can be easily moved around -the ottomans that is! The Snake lounge isn’t going anywhere -it’s a permanent fixture. I’m not about to go breaking my back moving that one!

Our Multimedia room has been fitted out with desktop Mac computers.

I included this picture in my last post about the library, but it remains one of my favourite spaces, although it’s probably tied with the Snake Lounge now! We called it the Presentation Room, but our students have coined it the Beanbag room, and that name has stuck. It gets constant use, both with classes and as a relaxed space for students during recess, lunch and after school.

All of these spaces require teachers to rethink their use of the library. Our previous building had clearly designated class spaces that mimicked classroom configurations of the traditional classroom. This new library is very different, and students find spaces that work for them. Quite often a class is not contained in one space; they spread out and use breakout rooms, couches and tables. We are seeing our senior students gravitate back (they have their own senior centre) and they especially enjoy the small breakout rooms that allow them a quieter space for study. (You can see the breakout rooms behind the Snake lounge in some of the pictures above). That’s another thing I am pleased about having; the quiet spaces that we never had in our previous library. There are some who crave quiet, and others who are content with ambient noise.

I am so pleased with how this building has turned out. We still need end panels for shelves and some more relaxed seating options. The end panels will arrive in the coming weeks, but other new furniture options may be on the backburner for awhile. Vinyl lettering and designs for our walls is something else we are putting thought into. It’s exciting to be involved in a project like this, and truly wonderful to walk into work every day and see a vision realised.

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Learning Spaces/Learning Futures forum at Bialik College

Today, Bialik College hosted a Learning Spaces/Learning Futures forum for their staff and members of other school communities. I was asked to sit on a forum panel at the end of the day and address questions posed from participants. I’d like to thank David Feighan for the invitation; it was an enlightening day and I was able to take away many ideas for our new library that is currently under construction.

Jon Peacock, General Manager, Learning Environments at the University of Melbourne, shared with us reasoning behind new generation designs of learning spaces. Considerations such as social inclusiveness, functionality for collaborative learning, comfort and even retention of students were all factors that have contributed to furniture selection and configurations of space. For someone who has this at the forefront of her thinking at the moment, it was fascinating. Jon shared with us the thinking that the University may not replace desktop computers when they reach a three year turnover if it is evident that students are bringing their own devices with them. They have student interns who act as facilitators to connect devices to networks; they look for students who have strong communication and mentoring skills as they are often catering to international students who are grappling with language barriers. This kind of thinking would bode well in many of our schools today; accept student owned devices for learning purposes regardless of platform, and encourage our student population to offer peer support with technology. An interesting idea was the University’s IT Pitstop, a place where students go to do printing, photocopying, quick searching and charging of devices. Interesting name; maybe something we could utilise. Jon shared with us many visuals of learning spaces at Melbourne University; it’s very impressive, and I’m thinking it will be worth visiting to glean new ideas that we can apply to the space we will be developing.

Dr. Leon Sterling, Dean of the Faculty of Information and Communication Technologies at Swinburne University of Technology, spoke about the changing nature of new technologies and their potential impact for education. He drew heavily from the Horizon Reports from the the last three years and made some interesting comments about opensource courseware like that provided from places like MIT. Leon was unsure that students would access such resources. I’m pretty sure they will, but I don’t think they’re going to stumble on these kinds of resources without being alerted to them first. I recently came across Khan Academy via a twitter link, and think I’ll be pointing students towards it. Here’s what it says on the site;

The Khan Academy is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) with the mission of providing a world-class education to anyone, anywhere. Despite being the work of one man, Salman Khan, this 1600+ video library is the most-used educational video resource as measured by YouTube video views per day and unique users per month. We are complementing this ever-growing library with user-paced exercises–developed as an open source project–allowing the Khan Academy to become the free classroom for the World.

Interesting philosophy, one that marries quite well with the intentions of Students 2.0. I ran a series of sessions in that space about the tools of social networking, but we failed to see student participation. Is it just that the kids aren’t interested, or is it that they just don’t know the possibilities that exist for self directed learning today?

Leon mentioned that Swinburne University will possibly be offering a Graduate Certificate in Teacher Technologies, designed to assist teachers in getting up to speed with new ideas for teaching and learning. A great idea, and something so necessary today. This was something I discussed in the forum at the end of the day. My concern lies with the human capital we have in our school systems today. Many of us dealing with new technologies are the product of self directed learning. We have skilled ourselves up without being sent to expensive professional development. We have immersed ourselves in learning communities and many of us are attempting to educate others by sharing our knowledge. But how many people are there like this, and is the spread enough to ensure the school system has access to this kind of skill set? My bet is there aren’t too many, and this is the challenge facing our governments who need to ensure we have workers armed with the skills necessary for working successfully in a knowledge economy. Something like what Leon was suggesting will be worth it, but how much will courses cost, and will our systems fund teacher participation? I’ll be very interested to see the outcome of upcoming election. My hope is that a Labor Govt. is returned. I want to see the vision they have for the digital revolution unfold, and a large part of what is promised is teacher professional development. It is key if we are to see real change realised.

Dr. Scott Bulfin, from the Faculty of Education at Monash University, spoke about rethinking the approaches to new media in schools today. Scott spoke of some challenging research he has conducted across 25 schools about the use of technology in education. His research saw students engaging in unsanctioned technology practices at school, and students complaining of being bored with school authorized work they were doing with technology. My take on this relates to my forementioned point. Teacher professional development is key if we are going to see teachers using the technology meaningfully in classrooms for teaching and learning purposes. People need to be exposed to a range of possibilities and make discerning choices about what they think may work with the students they have.

Mary Manning from SLAV was with me and the aforementioned speakers in the forum discussion at the end of the day. Questions from the audience were well considered, and saw us debating content knowledge necessary for VCE study, versus the skills needed for learning beyond the school years. It’s a vexed issue, considering that University entrance in Australia is underpinned by scores based on students ability to know content. Leon Sterling raised the idea that universities will move to interview format and teacher feedback to determine university entrance. How refreshing would that be, and wouldn’t it be the linchpin that could change the focus of education at the senior years of schooling.

I found the day very worthwhile, and applaud Bialik College, David Feighan and the school’s Principal, Joseph Gerassi, for organising some wonderful speakers and proactively thinking about what is important for students today. On their school website, Joseph talked of their foremost priority as being, “… to educate tomorrow’s leaders, by infusing them with the life skills to master the challenges posed by an ever-changing world.” Today was evidence of a school actively seeking to make that a reality.

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Reinvention – stage one

I feel like I’ve hardly been here of late. There have been plenty of things to write about, but, quite honestly, no time to write about any of them. I’ve been pretty time poor because we’ve been in the process of relocating our school library to temporary accommodation in preparation for the construction of a new library in 2010. It’s all very exciting, but any new development means that you need to evaluate what you need and what you can do without.

We’ve had a bit of time to think about this, hence our decision to do something like delete the VHS collection. Knowing we were moving and were going to be constrained in terms of space, we figured it was time to make tough decisions like this one. We also deleted quite a bit of non-fiction, but truthfully, the collection is still quite large and needs further deleting. Our fiction collection is quite large but it does get significant usage; it’s the only print collection we intend on growing. Next year we intend to explore ebooks and see how to integrate more of these into our collection.

So, where are we now? We’ve moved from a substantial building with offices and space to house a collection and class spaces, to a double classroom and one other large room. First up, I’d like to thank ABR Relocations for doing a stellar job of moving our book collection and shelving. In two days, they moved the whole lot and set it up so that it looked even better than it did in its original location! Yes, we paid them, but a move like this is intense, back breaking work, and they did it in a very professional manner. Graeme and crew, thanks very much.

And here’s what girls will resort to when they think they can find a bargain, even if it is an old cushion discarded from your school library!

I thought you might like to see how we’ve set up the double classroom space. This is going to act as our main centre, housing fiction, some desktop computers (we’re a laptop school so don’t need huge banks of computers), and comfy, relaxed spaces encouraging our students to come in, take a look around, relax and read. It’s also housing our desks, and although it’s nice to be with the kids, some away space for planning etc is going to have to be factored in to help us maintain sanity!


In this picture, you can see Catalogue, our Library cat, taking a nap on our new rug!

I took these photos today, our first day back in operation.

The students have found us and are pretty happy with the new surrounds. There have been lots of comments about how much they like the space and how they think it’s better than the old library!

We were only closed for a week during this relocation. I am very grateful for all of the hard work undertaken by the library staff and maintenance staff at my school. It’s a trying process, but everyone contributed with good grace. I’m not sure how long we’re going to be here, but we’re going to do all we can to offer as good a library service as we possibly can given the space constraints we have.

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