While school libraries have changed in recent times, driven largely by modern electronic accoutrements such as computers and eBooks, they remain of great importance.
Although it is now much easier for students to access essential information from their personal or classroom computers and similar accessories, the library is still a wonderful refuge where research and reading can be carried out in quiet and ideas have time to gel.
Countless career paths have been launched by young New Zealanders spending time in the school library. However, the demands on a library are markedly different from what they were and as a consequence their optimum layout and display patterns have changed forever. With rapidly changing needs, flexibility is now a much more significant consideration.
Teaching has moved from where content is all important to where content and process share equal importance. Schools are now challenged to promote information literacy, where students are encouraged to learn in complex and diverse information environments. Schools need to create a rich information-to-knowledge experience for learners where students actively construct knowledge rather than passively receive it.
School librarians have responded. No longer simply the keeper of books, the librarian is seen as the person who is able to create a stimulating, questioning environment – an environment that exposes students to a wide range of books and other resources, and challenges them to think.
Occasionally teaching staff may be fortunate enough to be involved in the creation of a new library. With that comes the headache of finding and choosing the best products and services and incorporating the latest thinking. It is much more likely they will be involved in making improvements to an existing library where the best use has to be made of what is usually a fairly tight budget. To achieve maximum creativity, innovation and use of space, it would be wise to seek the best advice available.
A good start would be to use existing suppliers. Make decisions based on their ability to demonstrate both passion for the environment and thorough understanding of a school library’s individual needs.
National sales manager of Hydestor Shelving, Paul Ryan, says that every dollar spent must deliver a result over the lifetime of the product or service the school is purchasing. “Customers are asking us to deliver a balance between ‘total cost of ownership’ – being the benefits of well designed solutions over time – and the pressure to meet low up-front invoice cost.”
The key to making sure you have the best of both worlds is experience, he said. “Hydestor is fortunate to have been able to help design and supply solutions to more than 400 schools in the last three years. From small add-ons to full libraries, the product selection is driven by the customer’s needs. It’s this constant and broad range of interaction that gives us the opportunity to stay sharp and deliver results based on the latest ideas and trends we hear about when visiting schools.”
Mr Ryan has several other points of advice for those designing or operating a school library:
• Spine out or face out – drive shelving elevations that allow the right mix and make sure the solution is modular so you can swap and change at any time. Your supplier should be asking you about the details of your collection so the right mix of stock density and specialist display options to entice readership is assured.
• Seismic stability – your supplier should be able to demonstrate exactly how this will be achieved.
• Producer statements – these documents are used in general building applications but also increasingly in the installation of ‘fittings and fixtures’ such as shelving. Your supplier should be able to provide this paperwork to you as your assurance the shelving meets current standards.
• Rollaway units – these are being used more often as the shelving can be moved aside to allow other activities to take place in the same space.
• Décor end panels – reclaim the ends of your shelving gondolas and use this space for poster displays as well as book displays highlighting a particular topic or introducing new books.
• Who gets your money? Choose locally owned suppliers and keep your precious dollars in the New Zealand economy.
• Don’t forget your store room and resource rooms – maximise the space and storage capacity with a well designed shelving solution to house journals, files, sports equipment, uniforms etc.