Make Space for Socialization and Leisure

New Year on the Horizon

The opening of a new school year beckons. We are days away from filling the library with scholars, journalists, laughter, amateurs, independent study, and tomorrow’s game makers. My college preparatory boarding high school (say that 10X fast!) is currently renovating our student center, which will be offline all year long. In the meantime, the library will become even more of a crucial campus hub.

Any public space for teens should foster a social character. To this end, I purposefully maintain a very dynamic library space. During class blocks the space takes on a focused and scholarly character. Students work in small groups or go solo, while classes come in and out to do research and access resources. During interstitial times and lunch, our school library becomes a vibrant commons where students of all stripes congregate. They huddle in the stacks, group around tables, gather in side rooms, and utilize our quiet study spaces along the side.

Hanging Out

Hanging out is often an end unto itself—teens value being together simply for social interaction. In a thought-provoking case in the Irish Times, Dan Griffin reported on young people and how they feel excluded from public spaces. He shared comments from a report from South Dublin County Council, which states that teens value hanging out and unstructured activity much more than, say, increased sports facilities.

Connected learning, hanging out, messing around, and geeking out aren’t new to the school library field; they have been celebrated for years now. Something I am grappling with is what will happen once the student center renovation is completed? What will become of the social character that I have cultivated in my library?

Odds are, the library will remain a vibrant and dynamic space on campus. Odds are that the student center and the library will in fact have a lot of overlap.

We will grow as an academic center and continue to support young adults as they transition into a challenging curriculum and prepare for success after high school. As the school library nurtures its academic character and grows to distinguish itself, I want to be sure to keep the importance of leisure in mind. Unstructured time. Hanging out. When does thought develop? How do we indulge interests and help them grow?

Leisure, Boredom, and Creativity

Working on problems, grappling with texts, honing skills—these all coexist with leisure. In fact, leisure can help the mind wander and unleash creativity. In Bored and Brilliant, Manoush Zomorodi explains what is possible when we put aside streams of constant notifications and interruptions and let ourselves be open to boredom. I don’t necessarily want students to come into the library and feel nauseous with boredom—but I would love for them to have the space, time, and option to slow down, take a breath, and let their minds wander.

How are you making spaces for socialization and leisure in your school library? Leave a note in the comments below.


Author: Mark Dzula

Categories: Advocacy/Leadership, Blog Topics, Makerspaces/Learning Commons

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