I spoke at a middle school in Oklahoma last year whereby the school was architecturally designed so that the library was the center of the building, the hub of the wheel if you will, and all the other hallway spokes were passageways to the various classrooms. Thereby for passing periods, all kids on campus had to cross by and through the library.
The library literally was the center of their campus. And these kids LOVED to read. Coincidence or self-fulfilling prophesy? (Do I even need to answer that?) They were all “library users”. It was a real sight to see.
On the other hand most campuses are designed whereby the library is an appendage, a separate place on campus, an isolated part of the grounds. I don’t think it’s by design that the libraries are being thought of in this manner… I think it’s by lack of thoughtful design that architects build schools in this way.
Simply put, they don’t view what’s most important as being most important and therefore they don’t place what’s most important in the center of the action. I mean really, did the architects ever ask the teachers, “Hey, tell us what you think should go where and why?” When I look at the design of my own school — and many of the schools I visit — I clearly see the answer as, “Obviously not.”
If we truly value our libraries (which I believe are emblematic of of the value we show for education itself), we show it to the kids long before our buildings are ever even constructed, And when the next new phase of school building occurs (I think we’re on track for new construction to begin in the year 2198 in California according to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s priorities), I only hope more schools follow the model of Oklahoma. Their library is woven into the fabric of their school and the kids absolutely loved it (and benefited from it as well).
The messages we send to our students are often crafted long before they enter our classrooms. Real teachers know this. It’s why we spend time before the year begins decorating our rooms, thinking through our seating layouts, standing one-footed on desks whereby we risk crashing to the ground and breaking our necks simply because there’s a cool bumper sticker we really want to hang above the fire alarm in the corner (Don’t just do it… do it RIGHT!).
Schools. literacy, and achievement happen by design. Think about that the next time you have to walk on over to the library.