Reconfiguring My School Library’s Layout

When we think of librarianship, most of us don’t think about physical exertion and muscle power. Books are heavy, especially nonfiction. With my library closed I decided it was time to start moving things around in anticipation of next school year. This task proves to be more physically demanding than I ever anticipated. 

Product Placement

Corporate marketing teams place things on a shelf in any store you shop at. They work on just the right look to draw in the customer. Book and materials placement in our libraries can be thought of in the same way. When you first entered my high school library the first section you encountered was the nonfiction section. High and low shelving were packed beyond belief. As you walk toward the very back of the library, tucked away in the corner is the fiction section. Upon reflection this made absolutely no sense. Students would check out and browse fiction on a much larger scale. I decided these spaces needed to flip.

Planning Ahead

In a perfect world I would have had an unending supply of book carts. I would have been able to take the books right from the shelves to the carts. Then I could have just wheeled them over and cleared each section at a time. This was not the case for me. To accomplish this huge undertaking with just the carts I had I needed to move in pieces. I planned out how many books I had versus the shelving in each location. I drew a diagram and planned each shelf out based on what I knew I had to work with.   

The Shifting and Lifting 

I started by weeding. This was a massive task just in itself. My nonfiction was in need of some tough love and if I was going to touch every book in the library I was only going to keep what I knew we would use.  Next, I pushed all the nonfiction down to fill in all the gaps on the shelves. Never before had my arms ached like a workout from doing my job. Definitely it became a labor of love and vision. This shifting and lifting left me with about one cleared bookcase at a time. Then I would bring over the fiction. Then push the fiction books down to clear the gaps. I repeated this process until both were switched entirely.  

Ultimately I am really happy with the switch visually. The flow of students through the library will improve and hopefully this will have a positive effect on circulation when we reopen. Thinking about placement and the ease with which students can find what they are looking for is key in this design. I am excited to see students’ reactions next year and hopefully the heavy lifting was for more than just my own exercise. 


Author: Elizabeth Libberton

Elizabeth Libberton is the library media specialist at St. Charles East High School in St. Charles Illinois. She currently writes book reviews for School Library Journal. She is a member of the ALA Awards Selection Committee. Also, she is a member of the steering committee for the AISLE Lincoln Book Award.

Categories: Blog Topics, Collection Development, Student Engagement/ Teaching Models

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2 replies

  1. Yes, how books are located in the library is so important.
    In my elementary library I realized that the picture books were on the tall shelving and the chapter books were on the lower shelving. After lots of shifting, the library was much more user friendly for the K-5 students.
    Signage also is helpful.

  2. Thanks for sharing.

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