How Our Library Space Supports Book Fair and an Open Library

We've had great success displaying our teacher wish lists on a three-dimensional display.

We’ve had great success displaying our teacher wish lists on a three-dimensional display.

Book fair is such an important part of our library.  I love seeing the energy that book fair brings to our teachers, families, and students.  Everyone loves to come and see what new books are at the book fair each time.  It gets new books into the home libraries of our students, and our wonderful PTA helps make sure that every student who wants a book gets one.  Book fair also extends our yearly budget.  Our student book budgets, 3D printing supplies, author visits, and many other things are supported by the funds raised at our book fairs.

In the past, book fair pretty much shut the library down as far as student checkout goes.  Because of our space being smaller and not flexible, the book fair cases blocked the shelves of our library.  Since I had a paraprofessional in the past, I continued to teach classes, but checkout stopped for a whole week.

Now that we are in our new space, our library is 100% accessible to students, teachers, and families thanks to our flexible design.  Our class schedule does slow down during book fair week since I pretty much run book fair by myself without a paraprofessional, but our wonderful parent volunteers step in and help when there are classes and projects that I need to continue with during book fair week.

Here’s a look at how our space transforms during book fair.

1.  Our circulation island stays completely accessible with storage underneath for books that need to be shelved.

book fair space (17)

2.  The circulation area becomes a space that gets decorated with the fair theme.

book fair space (8)

3.  The purple counter with attached case becomes the dividing point for our library.  Turn left and you enter the book fair.  Turn right and you go to the books, computers, instructional space, and lots of cozy reading/working spots.

book fair space (14)


4.  Inside the fair, our rolling Fusion Flip tables push together to create larger tables.  Our smaller student desk tables push together to make larger tables, too.  Single desks are used for things like our book plate and flyer display.

book fair space (16) book fair space (3) book fair space (2)


5.  Our purple counter becomes the cashier station and the attached case makes a great place to display posters.

book fair space (5) book fair space (6)

The back of the case remains accessible to our graphic novels and holiday books.

book fair space (7)

6.  Inside the fair, we leave a space to get to the equipment room and our ipad cart can easily be rolled out the side door to go to classes.  We also leave a space to enter the room with the 3D printer and studio equipment.

book fair space (15) book fair space (4)


7.  Since pretty much every table in the library is used to display the fair, there are a lot of extra chairs.  Those are all stacked in the corner, but not in the way at all.

book fair space (20)


8.  The book fair is in the spot where our fiction and 2 iMac computers usually sit, so those have been moved to one of the 2 instructional areas of the library.

book fair space (12) book fair space (11)


9.  Some of the nonfiction shelving is circled up to create a little more space for large groups to sit in front of our projection area.  During book fair, we had an author visit with the entire 2nd grade and we will Skype with an author on Thursday as well.

book fair space (9)


Some of our green cushions have been pulled over the projection area for small groups to sit and work with the projector.  They get pushed out of the way for larger groups.


book fair space (10)


10.  Our everybody picture book section and nonfiction are in their usual spots.

book fair space (19) book fair space (18)

12.  The book fair is completely closed in by the cases and the purple counter with case.

book fair space (13)


13.  Even without tables, students use the remaining furniture to find places to work.

IMG_2480 IMG_2479

Flexible was the most important word that we kept coming back to in designing the space.  I wanted as few fixed pieces of furniture as possible.  This maximizes our space and allows it to grow or change on a daily basis if needed.  As we have progressed through the year, I’ve learned new ways of using and arranging the furniture each time I’ve moved it.   I’m sure there are tons of possibilities that we haven’t even discovered yet.





Setting Up a New Elementary School Library (Part 2)

Fiction shelves minus some popular series

Fiction shelves minus some popular series

Today was our second day of unpacking boxes into our new school library.  After being away at a meeting yesterday, I spent some time walking the space and thinking back through Monday’s decisions.  For the most part, I was still happy with what was decided.  I flipped one shelf around in the fiction section and it really opened up the flow into the library better.  Some new rolling tables had arrived, so I worked on putting those into the 2nd projection area where I think students will most likely use devices while paired with demonstration on the projection screen.  I decided that the Lego robotics table will move from its current position near the front of the library into the back corner.  The wall I chose has no outlets.  This allows the wall with outlets to be used for computer tables.

New rolling flip tables

New rolling flip tables

My first volunteer, Camilla Bracewell, arrived and quickly got to work unpacking fiction onto the shelIves.  While she worked, I began unpacking equipment into the equipment room.  The equipment room, workroom, and office are rooms that I have to do myself because I have to figure out the best place to put each thing.  In the equipment room, I put our ereaders and digital cameras out on the charging shelves.  There aren’t as many outlets as I would like, but for the first time I can actually lay out all of this equipment and easily plug it in to charge.  All of the cords run down through the shelves to the outlets.  I put the most frequently used things out in clear sight and things that are less used went in closets.

Fiction ready to shelve

Fiction ready to shelve

It didn’t take long until our first problem of the day.  The fiction books didn’t fit on the shelves.  That statement has multiple meanings.  Some books were too tall for the shelf so they had to be turned sideways.  Other books were pulled to put in other sections of the library like graphic novel and everybody.  The worst part though was that all of the shelves were full and there were still 4 boxes to unpack.  First I tried to think of how to get another shelf, but then I started thinking about what could be pulled from the fiction and put somewhere else in the library.  We are still missing 3 big display cases that will have multiple functions.  One function is holding books, but without the cases in place it’s hard to decide what to put on them.  I decided to go around and pull some of the most popular series of books from the fiction shelf so that they could go on this display.  The next step would be to shuffle all of the books down the shelves to fill empty spaces.  I know that the books will fit if I do this, but i decided to delay this part of setup until I know more about the cases that are coming.

Putting the 39 Clues together

Putting the 39 Clues together

Rolling maker space supplies

Rolling maker space supplies

Next, I began unpacking all of the supplies.  I love the rolling cart of drawers that I have.  It tucks underneath the storage cabinets in the workroom but easily rolls out for students to use.  Each thing that I put in this cart fit in with my thinking about maker spaces in the library.  Each thing had to be something that students could use:  paper, pencils, crayons, markers, scissors, craft scissors, tissue paper, popsicle sticks, streamers, buttons, etc.  Other supplies went into drawers that will stay in the workroom.  In one storage closet, I made one side supplies and decorations and the other side instructional resources.

Throughout the day, the son of my former paraprofessional began arranging all of the rooms in our teacher book room with class sets of books and guided reading books.  This is a huge amount of boxes and took a long time just to get the boxes in order.  We haven’t even started the process of unpacking those.

By the end of the day, a dad and daughter came and unpacked the biographies.  They fit them onto 3 carts, but there was shelf space left over.  I was curious if all the books could fit onto 2 carts to free up one cart.  We shuffled these around and very tightly fit biographies onto 2 carts.  I don’t like that it’s so packed, and I’m not sure if I will keep it like this.

Current student and alumni student helpers

Current student and alumni student helpers

Jennifer McDowell and her daughters (one Barrow student and one alumni) came and unpacked the nonfiction section up to the 700s.  For now, they packed the shelves tightly, but I hope we have enough space to go back through and free up some space in each section.  This was a big task for them because the hand truck had been borrowed by other teachers.  They had to carry each heavy box out of the hallway and across the library to unpack it.

In the midst of all of this, a whiteboard was installed.  Three different workers came to ask me where various computer equipment should be installed.  We realized that one projector was not wired into the network.  I questioned the height of the circulation island for our younger students.  Multiple teachers came to ask questions about technology, upcoming projects, and their own shelving in their rooms.  I submitted a purchase order, and who knows what else I did and don’t remember.  This is exhausting, but each time someone walks in they already talk about how inviting it is.  With each unpacked box and piece of furniture, we move one step closer to a new school year.  It’s truly exciting.





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.