Clean Up and Clean Out – Refresh Your School Library

Just about everyone would love a makeover in their school library, but budgets are tight. Here are some ways you can refresh your library without spending a dime:

What’s on the walls?

Do you have posters, pictures, or signage from years ago? Clear out the yellowed laminated posters and replace with new ones or student artwork. Those ALA READ posters are great (and pricey), but make your library appear outdated when students don’t know the celebrities featured. If you just can’t part with David Bowie, move that poster to your office–or better yet, take it home.

New signage

Elect the help of your students or the local high school to get art students to be creative and create some multimedia projects. Have digital media students create graphics, videos, brochures, and other signage as a class project. Have the shop class take those ancient encylopedias to the band saw to create 3D letters for your fiction and non-fiction sections.

Bulletin boards

Change these once a year, more often if possible. Change up the colors, add some 3D features or interactives such as QR codes. Have students contribute ideas and let them help.

Rearrange the furniture

Carve out some flexible areas for small groups with sofas, soft chairs, or beanbags. If you don’t have the cash, ask maintenance if they can help locate any surplus or ask your administrators or PTO for help. Get rid of that map stand you no longer need or odd end tables and lamps to clear out the clutter.

Show your school spirit

Make throw pillows using old school t-shirts, or better yet have a textiles class make them for you. Have the art students paint a mural with your school mascot reading. Create a bulletin board featuring teachers reading their favorite books.

Raise the blinds 

If you have windows, clean and raise the blinds and clean the windows really well. If you have ancient curtains, remove them altogether. Natural light is more soothing for students than fluorescent bulbs. Strategically place a couple of house plants to help clean the air. Peace lillies, spider plants, and pothos ivies are all easy to maintain and help to purify the air.

And as always, weed, weed, weed!

Purge those old encyclopedias and reference materials. Discard books that are outdated or worn. Can’t part with those almanacs or coffee table books? Put those on display in some of your small soft seating areas for leisure reading.

Do you have other free ideas to share? Add them in the comments below.


Author: Sedley Abercrombie

Sedley Abercrombie is the district digital learning and library media programs specialist for Davidson County Schools in North Carolina, an NCSLMA executive board member, and an adjunct instructor at East Carolina University.

Categories: Blog Topics, Collection Development, Community/Teacher Collaboration, Makerspaces/Learning Commons, Student Engagement/ Teaching Models

5 replies

  1. I made whiteboard tables out of sturdy, but old library tables. Added some bright dry erase markers in colorful holders in the center of each table. Students love them for collaboration, brainstorming, and working math problems together.

  2. Great idea, Sedley! Thanks to Google Photos, I just saw a set of photos I took of my library on my first day of work 7 years ago. Thankfully, most everything has changed. I have enormous windows on two sides of my library, and the first thing I did was open the blinds. It brought teachers from all over campus into the library, since they hadn’t been opened in 6 years!

  3. Dana – what did you use to create the white board? Adhesive? Spray paint?

  4. What a great idea Dana! I too would like to know how you made the whiteboard tables. Did you cut sheets at a home improvement store, and attach them somehow? Thanks!

  5. Sedley, I also love the idea of taking old school shirts and making them into pillows. I have a few at home I could re-purpose!

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