BER Supplies The Shell, We Decide What Goes Inside

A bit later this year, my school will get its BER-funded library. And while we don't get that much choice about the design of the actual building, Ann my principal keeps reminding the staff that we have a lot of choice about the interior looks like. She believes (and I agree) that this is a great chance to break the mould of how a primary school library is set up and run. Re-imagining how a dynamic learning space for our school could look is an exciting opportunity that should open up new possibilities.

I personally feel excited looking at Kim Cofino's workplace, the Learning Hub at ISB, Thailand and see that is an attractive learning environment that holds what is currently good about school libraries (fiction books, magazines etc.) blended with new media areas and comfortable seating. Kim explains:

You have to give them something different. The Learning Hub (library) has to offer a physical environment that is different than other spaces teachers and students regularly use.

Not that their design doesn't need a bit of tweaking from time to time:

In our efforts to make a 21st century learning environment, we had mistakenly recreated a standard, formal classroom space at the very front of the Learning Hub, assuming that teachers would want to use it as an expanded classroom:

I'm thinking that a few things need to go - a traditional computer lab isn't really needed in a school that is trying to go wireless and get technology out into the classrooms and why do we need any reference books that are not digital? I suppose one of the greatest challenges about a blank slate (aka the empty shell of a building) is prioritising the possibilities and actually picturing how it all might fit together.

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3 thoughts on “BER Supplies The Shell, We Decide What Goes Inside

  1. Linda Dierks

    Don’t you love what Kim has done with her space? I especially like her movie theater style idea. You are very fortunate indeed to have a blank slate to build on!

    Just two differing thoughts…

    First, I do still see the value of printed resource books, especially in younger students who have not mastered keywords/search terms yet. Databases are definately a fabulous choice with interactive and current information, but it can take more self-discipline to navigate to just the info a kiddo needs. I just think a choice is wise when dealing with so many different learning styles.

    Second, my experience with wireless has meant a lot more technical challenges, often times very time consuming ones that get in the way of learning. Maybe hardwired computer pods would serve as good back-ups rather than full labs? Or maybe I am being too “safe” and need to just commit to full wireless to make it work.

  2. greg carroll

    Hi ya
    check out our ‘library’ – The wiki has heaps of information about the kinds of things that happen for us extending from this space in virtual and real ways. I believe strongly the ideas and beliefs about learning are the things that should drive the design. NOT seeing someones space you like and transporting it. There will be reasons it works for them that may not transfer to your context – be careful 🙂 It would be disappointing to find small things that mean it is not as effective for you.
    As you say great fun though!! Check out anything you can find about Reggio early childhood and school design. I love their belief that “the environment is the third teacher” – they have two teachers with each class. The use of natural materials makes the spaces really nice to be in and we have found this with ours as well. We have wooden shelves for instance. Slick and modern looks good when it is new, it doesn’t always weather very well.
    Anyway a stream of thinking there for you as I am about to step out the door to school. 🙂

  3. Kim Cofino

    I totally agree about the computer lab. When we update those computers (next year, they’re on a 3 year rotation) we will replace desktops with laptops and do some flexible seating in that area instead.

    I’ve been reading about Plexiglas walls on wheels to create individual, sound-proof “rooms” within a wide open space. To me, that sounds like an excellent way to keep a room open, but cut down on noise. I’m hoping we can work in one or two of those in future years as well.

    Good luck with your space! I can’t wait to see what it looks like when it’s finished!


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