We asked two classes of geometry students, “What do you want in a renovated school library space that will better prepare you for learning in high school and beyond?” After we facilitated student learning through the guided inquiry phases, it was in the Share presentations that we fully heard their answers.
Numerous proposals called for a second floor. Students recognized the square footage of our library and the number of classes we accommodate each day often make it a tight fit. While some suggested a top floor to be a lounging area, others wanted to place 30-40 computers up there so the direct instruction space could be in a more isolated location. Same idea with two very different visions for the space. Hearing the rationales behind their choices was very interesting and made for great reflection and discussion.
A cafe was another popular recommendation. Having a place to purchase coffee, hot chocolate or tea was quite the trend. Students talked about how this could potentially raise more money for library books while helping them stay awake and energized throughout the day. Others wanted the cafe to be a self-serve vending machine so that the librarians wouldn’t have to run the space and yet it would still provide a place for students to get that mid-morning pick-me up. Regardless of how it was operated, students loved the idea of having a new place to relax and socialize throughout the school day.
There were very practical proposals too. Those included more durable and modern furniture, tables and chairs on wheels that would be easier to move, a new paint scheme, faster computers, and furniture with electronic device charging stations. The inclusion of whiteboards or whiteboard walls were often mentioned as a more convenient way for groups to work together too.
Other students pitched one-of-a-kind ideas. For instance, one student recognized our windowless space could be totally transformed by adding an atrium of sorts. Others wanted to install fish tanks — many, many fish tanks — so that we’d be different than any other school in the area plus have an interactive learning space for science classes. Another idea was to install a state of the art camera system that monitored each library space so librarians wouldn’t have blind spots anymore and took it one step further to suggest having monitor displays throughout the room so everyone could self-police themselves. Another person recommended taking out all the traditional bookshelves and install expandable (electronic) stacks so that we could house MORE library books in a smaller space to make room for other learning areas, including an expanded Makerspace.
Who knew this is was what high school students wanted?
I wish you could’ve been there to hear these students present their ideas. For the most part, they were professional, positive, and attempted to solve issues that are currently dealt with in the school library. And on top of that, these students applied many of the geometry concepts they had been learning all year in a very real and practical way. It was an authentic project centered on mathematical content. And while I was hoping for a green screen and video equipment area, less bulky circulation desk and/or fitness bikes that would help keep both our minds and bodies healthy, that’s not what the students said. And that’s ok! In the upcoming renovation, it is my hope that we can work with school officials and architects to combine the students’ ideas and what the school librarians prioritize too. And that, I believe, will make our renovated space a truly unique place for our students to learn, collaborate, network, research and create with one another.
Amanda Hurley, National Board Certified Teacher
Library Media Specialist, Henry Clay High School