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Physical Space and Routines

Updated: Jun 15, 2019

Dear Dr. Laura,

I just saw my new library. It looks like a huge empty cavern right now. How do I even get started? It just seems overwhelming.


Overwhelmed Librarian

Hello, Overwhelmed Librarian!

As we roll out this website, it is summer and many people like you are on summer vacation. I hope you find time to relax and rejuvenate because your first year in the library will be starting soon! I’m sure that you are gearing up for your next year in your library. Maybe it’s your first or 23rd year, you’re starting to think things through now in hopes that all the planning will help you have a smooth year.

You may have been a former classroom teacher and know that routines are hugely important! Your classroom management skills should easily transfer to your new and larger classroom in the school library. Let’s look at physical space first.

Physical Space Impacts Library Management

More than likely your shelves are fixed and you won’t be able to move them. So, you’ll need to arrange your seating for how you think your library should be used. Create unobstructed walking pathways. However, be sure to not create wide open spaces that encourage running. Will you have a study area for older students? Will you have a story time area for younger students? Is there a makerspace area? Room for technology? Is there room for a teacher or small group to come in while you work with another class of students?

Now that your room is intentionally set up, start thinking about routines. How do you want them to walk in and walk out? Will they sit in assigned seats or assigned tables? Will supplies be stationed at the tables or will students have to get up to get their own supplies from a designated area? Some librarians number their tables and number their supply boxes. The boxes could stay on the tables or could be easily retrievable from a designated storage area.

How will students check out their books? Will you scan each book yourself or will you teach students to do self-checkout? Will students do a massive free for all to line up to checkout books or will you set up a routine for checking out by table? Any option you choose will require a designated area for checkout.

You’ll also need a designated place for students to return books to. Do you have a return book drop (a slot where students slide books in to when they are finished)? Do you have a designated cart labeled for book returns? Do they pile up their returned books on your circulation desk? Do students scan their books themselves and put them on the return cart or will you scan them later?

Your physical space will have an impact on many of your library routines. Think it through! It’s worth your time because it will pay off with improved student behavior and it will pay off with more time for you to interact with students instead of correcting students’ misbehavior. You’ll want to practice these routines the first month or so. You’ll probably only see the students once a month and it will take time for the routines to fall in place.

Don’t be overwhelmed. Plan with intention and you’ll be off to a great start!

Dr. Laura

Librarian Influencer of the Week: Carolyn Foote who often posts/speaks about Library Design. Twitter Handle: @technolibrary

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