When You Give a School Librarian an Empty Space

I walked into the new school library at Chatham Grove Elementary School for the first time in May 2020. There was so much space! It was incredible! We could host a square dance in between the eighteen double-sided rolling shelves, four book carts, and two rolling chairs. The furniture looked so small all by themselves. At that moment, the possibilities seemed endless! Armed with a copy of the architect’s rendering and a list of furniture ordered by central office, I started making plans. And then I waited with just the book shelves, chairs, and book carts. Nothing it seemed was going to arrive in a timely fashion!

Two Interactive Panels?

When I first saw the space there was only one interactive board. Now there are two, and this raises some logistical questions that need to be answered:

  • Do we set up one teaching area or two?
  • If two, then how will each function?
  • If we stick with one, how will we utilize the other board?

I’ve gone back and forth on the answers. It would be great to have a space for the little guys and one for the big guys that could be set up for each of their needs. But it would also be great to have a place for independent work that was farther away. For the time being, one area has tables and chairs, while the other area has lots of floor space.


Tables and Chairs!

We got 15 beautiful and bright tables with matching chairs. All the tables in my previous schools have been the same. Brown, wooden, laminate tops. These tables came in quite lovely colors! The kids will love them.

An added bonus for these tables: the chairs are made to go on top. This made it so very easy to arrange and rearrange them.

Soft Seating

Additional seating was ordered that could be arranged in a variety of ways. This added some great color and was fun to play with. I’ve not had much additional seating in the past, so I’m really not sure how it will end up, but it’s been a lot of fun moving it around and playing with it.

The Biggest Challenge: The Circulation Desk

The last thing to arrive was the circulation desk. I knew it would be big. The schematic said 10′ x 10′, and the design was for it to go in the center of the library. I put some stray pieces of furniture and the book carts about where I thought it would work as a reminder it was yet to come.

When it arrived, not only was it long, it was also tall! Adult standing tall. My first thought was how in the world would we use it with the shortest of our elementary students? The delivery crew waited for me to tell them they could put it together. Finally, I said yes, fine, put it together.

Over the next several days, I moved around the library looking at it. I had to figure out how to make it work. While that central location had lots of advantages, for many students, it would block their view. Eventually, I took it apart and moved it closer to a wall. It looked much more natural there and not nearly as overwhelming.

We solved the problem of the height by placing a couple of small tables in front for check in and out.


And Then There Was the Other Challenge: The Lights!

This one was completely on me. The lights all over the building are automatic. They come on when someone walks in the room, and sometime later, they go out. The lights in the library never changed, however. This resulted in dark areas on cloudy days.

I found the switch, used the little up and down arrows to try and make the lights go up or down, but they stayed the same level. The one thing I hadn’t tried was clicking the on switch. (I do know how feeble this sounds!) Well, who knew! The library lights weren’t automatic after all!

Is This How It Will Stay?

I like to move things around, so I’ll probably keep shifting the furniture in pursuit of the perfect layout. I’m hoping the circulation desk can stay where it is though! Right now, we are learning remotely for at least the first nine weeks, so I’ve got a little time to analyze this layout. It will be so much easier to determine functionality when the kids return.

Have you moved into a new facility? What are some of the challenges you faced? How about the the joy of setting it all up? Please tell me about your experiences in the comments!


Author: Bitsy Griffin

Bitsy Griffin is the school librarian for Chatham Grove ES in Chapel Hill NC. She has 25+ years experience in elementary, middle, and high schools as a math teacher and librarian. She is active in AASL and the North Carolina School Library Media Association. Find her blog at http://www.bitsygriffin.com .

Categories: Blog Topics, Student Engagement/ Teaching Models

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