Like all Smart Phone users, I have a camera at my disposal every minute of the day. But unlike the selfie-consumed generation, I forget there is a camera in my pocket and rarely take pictures of what is important. I miss out on commemorating sunsets, birds in flight, and more importantly where I spend my working hours. My library is brand new and I only took a few photos at the beginning of the year. When I decided to begin moving shelves and the circulation desk around, I forgot to take before and after pictures. Alas, I am unable to show you how it all looked at the beginning and how it looks now. Trust me, it was beautiful then and now.
So why did I get rid of the big, beautiful, and amazing honey-colored circulation desk? It comes down to feel. How do I feel when observing my students check out? How do I feel when moving around the library? The answers to these questions are more nuanced than a few words can capture. But I will do my best.
Opening up a new library has huge advantages! Everything is spotless. Everything is brand new. All the books are in order! When I accepted the position, I was told not worry about anything because the district does the heavy lifting for opening libraries. Our district library supervisor is awesome! He does his research, knows trends in librarianship and collection. He purchased the opening day collection and oversaw library design and build. On my first day of walking into my library, everything was set up! Imagine it…walking into a library where all the books have been unboxed, shelved, and meticulously placed to bring students’ eyes and excitement to where they should be. All, I had to do was inventory and manage circulation.
When I left my previous school district, they were in the process of opening its first brand new school in many, many years. True to that district’s nature, everything was transparent. So I knew how that school’s library (or learning commons, I think they called it?) had been designed: lots of glass, rounded shelves, kiosks, modular and comfortable seating. Doing my own reading about new library design and trends, I imagined how my new library would look.
Day one in my library, I was surprised to see a large circulation desk greeting me. This impressive piece of furniture was full of storage, hid electrical cords, and had plenty of space to house two circulation stations, printers, and book return bin. Truly it was a remarkable piece of furniture! In my previous librarian life, I would have coveted that desk—designed as a perfect place to sit and oversee circulation. However, there is no library assistant who mans the desk and I usually stand while checking email and planning lessons. This piece of furniture was becoming a catchall rather than living to it’s fullest potential. I felt uneasy about its presence from the onset.
Then I watched as students used the circulation desk. When an entire class checked out at a time, students formed lines in front of each circulation computer blocking traffic flow into and out of the library doors. If I was behind the circulation desk, it was hard for me to easily navigate and help students find books or assist students using the circulation computers. If I was directly in front of the desk, I felt in my students’ way or boxed in by the classes as they used the circulation computers. As impressive as this piece of furniture was, I felt it weighed upon the library in an intrusive manner. However, it was brand new. I was brand new. How could I do anything about it? I certainly did not complain about it because how can I complain about something so amazing in the best-designed library I have ever worked? That would be rude.
But its fate was sealed when I attended a conference in November. Our district hosts a library and technology conference for all media and technology teachers. It’s a great opportunity to learn from and alongside each other. As individuals in our buildings, we yearn for learning from likeminded peers. This conference provides that opportunity. At the conference, our district library supervisor presented about future trends. He mentioned circulation desks going by the wayside for smaller circulation kiosks. The next day, I walked into the library with hex screwdriver in hand and began taking apart the circulation desk.
What I have now is five new stations: two circulation kiosks and three areas for library centers. The pieces are throughout the library rather than at the entrance. Students now check out more easily and freely. No longer is there a long line blocking the entrance while a whole class is checking out. Plus, I have place for the brand new globe I have ordered and a computer station for students to search CultureGrams and Google Maps. I am happy. The library feels more open and free.
But is it perfect? No. The book return bin no longer works. Students are returning books to empty shelves right beside the entrance. This is new to them and new to me; and I am not sure about it. I promise to remember my phone has a camera and take pictures. The return shelves need further thought and I need others’ perspectives. Thus, this adventure continues…