There is a lot of change happening in school libraries. Modern school building design is rapidly evolving to meet new challenges. Yet, for all the change we see happening on today’s private school, and college campuses, the timeless qualities of the school library come ever more into focus. Strong school libraries will embrace change while holding onto their enduring attributes.
What Does The Information Revolution Mean for School Libraries & Contemporary School Building Design
Like the hearth at the center of a historic home, traditional school libraries were the quiet, contemplative spaces at the heart of their campuses. Learning shone forth from their heavy walls which sheltered the school’s vital information and materials collections within.
In our several decades of designing and renovating campus libraries, we have witnessed first-hand the Information Revolution. The ways in which information is disseminated have changed profoundly, leading to questions about the role – and even the very existence – of the school library. With information moving online, does a library need to be housed in its own building? Does it need to physically exist at all?
New Pedagogies of the Information Age: The move away from silent, passive learning.
The shift from print to digital media came hand in hand with a shift away from individualized, passive learning toward collaborative, active pedagogies. Interdisciplinary instruction, project-driven curricula, collaborative and experiential learning have irreversibly altered the building design and physical layouts of classroom spaces across campuses and have encouraged new ways of thinking about libraries.
No More Books? Not So Fast. What Modern Library Design Looks Like.
The need for row upon row of stacks may be in decline as digital media come to replace print. Yet learning still rests, as ever, upon the acquisition of information passed down through the generations. School libraries lie at the crossroads of the disciplines and are, in many ways, the beating heart of school campus. Gathering together is still a critical aspect of learning. As the Covid-19 crisis has shown, online learning can be a lifeline in times of need, but it cannot easily replace collaborative sessions of ideas-sharing. Libraries are key sites of these sessions for groups of all different sizes.Librarians: Needed now more than ever.
As information technology advances at a whirlwind pace, and along with it access to information, students need help – in fact perhaps more now than ever before – to select information that is sound. Librarians play a critical role in helping students acquire this vital skillset.
The Key To Resilient Building Design In Schools? Flexibility.
Resilient school library designs will have built-in flexibility with respect to physical layout and pedagogical evolution. Just 25 years ago, we were designing dedicated computer rooms with fixed, hardwired workstations across most of our campuses.
As technology changed and laptops came into play, the need for these single-use spaces declined. And this will change again in the future. In response, we have shifted our design focus to open spaces with options to easily close off areas for quiet study. Furniture that can move around and be easily reconfigured to accommodate students working in small groups, individually, or as whole classes is now widely available.
From Hearth to Hub. The Exciting Future of School Library Designs.
With thoughtful modern design, school libraries have a vital role to play as campus communities adapt to our evolving information and pedagogical landscapes. One exciting campus trend we are seeing is the coming together of research and creativity under one roof. Makerspaces, art classrooms, video production units, and more are being joined with library spaces to form new collaborative learning commons. The expertise of librarians is critical to the success of these new spaces.
Collaborative learning spaces also help build consensus on campuses. As disciplines collaborate, disparate faculty members find new points of commonality. Multi-layered spaces also help school fundraising efforts as donor pools expand.
School libraries that harness their enduring qualities will come to play a central role in the evolution of the campus of tomorrow. With thoughtful design, new doors will open for them as they journey from quiet hearth to central hub.
Are you looking at ways to reimagine your school library design? Let us help you design collaborative and resilient learning spaces that will become the center of your campus. Contact us anytime to discuss ideas.