By Shelby Anderson
Media/Technology Integrationist
Cook County Schools ISD166 Library Media Center
Grand Marais, MN

I was
thankful for the opportunity to attend the Fall Conference of ITEM (Information
and Technology Educators of MN) October 2-4. The keynote speakers, especially
Naomi Harm, were inspirational.
The
session I most appreciated was one given by Lisa Gearman of Chaska where she
has experimented with the physical design and furnishings of her school media
center.
The
increased emphasis on creating has led to the maker-space movement. This is the
idea of where people – in her case – students – have the freedom to explore,
collaborate and create, whether it involves digital products or other projects.
Lisa used as her theme, Joyce Valenza’s questions:

”Is your library a
grocery store or a kitchen?
Do your patrons come in
just to pick up items or do they use the library to find the ingredients and
also find the space to whip something up?”
Such
ideas need flexible furniture and space options. There were options such as
desks with writing surfaces that could be moved together in various
configurations enabling single or collaborative work. Another idea was
recovering table surfaces or even walls, with a laminate whiteboard so students
could collaborate with drawings and ideas. (Using whiteboard
paint was discouraged because of the extensive preparation to make a surface
perfectly smooth and need to re-paint regularly.) Lisa has put up a Lego base
board on a wall and uses Legos to create fun informative signs.
Tables
were on wheels to allow flexibility. To accommodate student needs for
reflection and quiet, movable fabric room divider screens were used.
Lisa had
the good fortune to have been in contact with a designer in the Target
Commercial Furniture store. Target provided a month’s worth of furniture to her
LMC for her students to experience. (Target also provided a showcase library at
the conference for attendees to experience.)
There
were higher counters with stools, giving it a kitchen feeling. There were
modified ball chairs. When students had a choice between the hard chairs or the
ball chairs at the computer stations, they chose the ball chairs.
Lisa
documented student reactions & usage of the area during this time. Students
felt more comfortable with the ergonomic-friendly furniture and stayed focused
on projects.
Libraries
are no longer just about books but more about creating a learning experience.
By providing user-friendly welcoming environments and ergonomic-friendly
furniture, an ambiance is produced where student exploration, creativity and
collaboration are stimulated.

I took
home several ideas and am exploring ways to make them happen in my library!