When Two Become One: The Consolidation of Two School Libraries

We are in a time where education is shifting and changing, and many of these alterations are made due to finances. Schools are either rapidly growing or shrinking in enrollment numbers, mainly due to the plethora of new schooling choices that include charters, magnet programs, cyber schools, and private schooling options. When the dollar drives the decision, many public school programs are being forced to reevaluate how best to use their funding. In many cases, where seats remain empty from the sheer option of choice, the decision has been to consolidate two existing schools into one school building location to save on the immense costs of keeping two different buildings up and operating at less-than-full capacity. This presents a unique set of challenges for the libraries being consolidated to one location.

As someone who is currently experiencing a school consolidation, middle and high school to a junior senior high school with grades seven through twelve, I have created a plan of action for school library media specialists who are facing similar challenges and moves across the country. I’ve broken it down into five distinct areas: weed, evaluate, pack, floor plan, and final evaluation.

  1. Weed

Weed each library space for old, outdated materials and any materials in poor physical condition. There is no need to spend time and energy on these materials in a move and they should be either offered for free to patrons or appropriately disposed of. Your new library space does not need unnecessary aged items dating the collection (this, of course, does not include historical items that may be of importance in your collection such as state historical documents).

  1. Evaluate

Evaluate each collection for its own strengths and weaknesses. When I evaluated our collections after weeding, it became clear that the middle school library had a strong young adult literature collection, whereas its world historical collection was lacking and needed updating. Conversely, our high school collection had a very weak young adult collection, but had a very timely collection of career and vocational preparation guides for our students.  It is only after you see what each collection is lacking, as well as what is sufficient or above average in development, that you can begin to see a clearer picture for your future one library space altogether.

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  1. Pack

Pack the books and materials you are going to use at your new library space. I highly recommend using medium sized cardboard boxes. It is best to only pack the bottoms of the boxes so that boxes will be easily moveable. Remember, books are heavy and it only takes a few to create a heavy load to lift.

  1. Floor Plan

Once you get your boxes to the newly combined library space, be sure to have a plan as to how you are going to unpack and arrange your new collection space. For example, I decided to unpack and shelve all of the nonfiction and reference collections first. Then, I could assess what space I had left to accommodate the fiction collection and make any shelving-space changes I deemed necessary.

  1. Final Evaluation

Once all of your materials have been unpacked, shelved, and have found their new home in the library, you will need to do an evaluation of your new collection. Chances are it will have some areas that stand out as more-than-well-developed, whereas other parts of the collection may be gravely lacking. This is your new library space and you will need to plan collection development that will gradually strengthen all areas as your budget allows.

 

Ultimately, moving and consolidation of a library media space can seem like an overwhelming task.  However, with careful planning and utilizing your professional knowledge, a great new consolidated library space can be yours for the planning.

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Author: Megan Shulman

Megan is both the middle and high school librarian at Humboldt Junior Senior High School which serves grades 7-12. She has her Masters of Library and Information Science from the University of Pittsburgh. Mrs. Shulman has been both a classroom teacher and a school librarian. This upcoming school year, she will be entering her 8th year in public education serving Title 1 schools. Her areas of expertise are school library leadership, brain-based learning strategies, and creating maker-spaces in the current library atmosphere.



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