Setting Up a New Elementary School Library (Part 1)

I had the honor of putting the very first books on the shelves

I had the honor of putting the very first books on the shelves

After my last post (New Beginnings), I’ve received several requests to document the process of setting up our new library space.  It is an exciting and exhausting process to walk into a big open room with endless possibilities.  As I’ve said before (and keep repeating to myself), the space can and will change once students begin using it.  I can only guess what might work best for students, but the beauty of the furniture and shelving that we have is that it can fairly easily change into something new if it doesn’t work the way I’ve set it up.

Over this past weekend, our SPLOST director, David Stubbs, spent many hours with a few helpers moving all of the boxes out of the library and organizing them by category.  This was supposed to be done by the movers, but it wasn’t.  He also made sure that all furniture that didn’t belong to the library was delivered to its proper place.  This morning, I walked in to see several possible configurations of the shelves, soft seating, tables, stools, and chairs.  David walked me around and talked about what he knew about each set of furniture.

Next, my first volunteers arrived.  The wonderful Camilla Bracewell, Barrow grandparent, and Carole Langley, spouse of an early Barrow alum, began working on shelves.  All of the carts have 3 shelves, but many of our library books are tall, so each cart needed to be switched to 2 shelves.  They adjusted the “Everybody” shelves and began bringing in the “Everybody” boxes and sequencing them.  I had numbered the boxes 1 of 37, 2 of 37, etc. so that we could easily put them in order.  Once in order, they began packing the shelves with books until they had to leave.

While all of this was going on, Julie Moon, Barrow parent and professional organizer, helped me think through all of the spaces in the library.  She took the lead on rolling around the remaining shelves to see all of the possibilities we could create for the various sections of the library.  Each time furniture was moved, we thought about why it was being moved.  For example, some oval rolling tables were moved away from the main instructional area because we decided that they would be great areas for students to collaborate or for teachers, mentors, or volunteers to work with students.  The spaces wouldn’t really work well if they were right next to each other, so we changed it.  We worked on this from about 10AM-2PM, and I think when we left at the end of the day, we felt pretty good about the placement of all of the furniture.  There is a bit more furniture to come, so the arrival of those pieces might change some things.  We did our best to think about these pieces as we were laying things out.

Julie continued working on the Everybody section and realized that we had packed the shelves a bit too full.  She went back through the entire section and shuffled the books on the shelves so there was a bit of space on each shelf for some expansion.

Jaison Jacob, a Barrow parent, and his daughter came at the end of the day and helped switch a few more of the shelves from 3 shelves to 2 shelves.  To end their time, they rolled all of the fiction boxes into the library to get ready for our next wave of unpacking on Wednesday.

Before I left, I went around and labeled each section of shelves with post-its so that volunteers can easily see where sections are.

I can’t say enough about the amazing volunteers that came today.  They took over some of the strenuous work so that I could step back and think through the space and layout.  I look forward to the coming days and several more wonderful volunteers popping in to support this space.  I love the ownership of the space already by parents, grandparents, alumni, and friends.

2 thoughts on “Setting Up a New Elementary School Library (Part 1)

  1. Allison Watson says:

    We will be moving into a new building in the next couple of years, so I’m already thinking about design. Where did you get the curved shelving and furniture around it? I love it!

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