For most people when they hear the words location, location, location they think real estate. I think of school library media centers. In almost all schools the media center occupies the largest amount of real estate on the campus. And just like a piece of real estate, there should be flexibility in the staging, products, services, and use of the space. This place, above all others, should be a dynamic space that allows for self expression, exploration, discovery, curiosity, creativity, inquiry, critical thinking, and problem solving.
Today’s patrons are looking for a space that is inviting, contemporary, and comfortable. As such, any overhaul of your school’s approach to its media center should begin with its physical layout and design. Look around the media center and think about how it could be staged. Get rid of unwanted, outdated, and old books, furniture, and equipment. Keep the three Rs in mind – recycle, reinvent, and repurpose. Create a lounge with sofas, leather chairs, bean bags, etc. Invest in chalkboard paint, dry erase board paint, and liquid chalk to change as many surface areas as possible into spaces that lend themselves to play. There needs to be a fluidity and mobility to the media center that allows for the change and manipulation of spaces in order to fit the needs of each visitor. The free resource, “Teen Space Guidelines,” put out by the Young Adult Library School Association, is a great guide for getting going on these changes.
What is your product? If it is books, how are you positioning them? Are the displays interactive? Do you use shelf talkers? Have you considered adopting the latest trend in genrefying the fiction section? If your product is wifi do you have enough access points? What about electrical outlets? Are there other mobile devices (i.e. iPads, iPods, Kindles, Nooks, etc.) available for check-out? What about space? Can your tables and chairs be moved for a flipped classroom, a blended learning environment, projects, collaboration, study groups, etc? The Toolkit for School Library Media Programs is a comprehensive document with a wealth of ideas on how to market the library space and resources.
Librarians are the leaders in exploring and trying out the latest trends in digital tools, resources, and training. One big trend that has seen a lot of success is the use of makerspaces. Libraries offer the perfect venue for creating, sharing, and sustaining a makerspace environment. Through space and supplies, media centers provide a no judgement zone where through participatory learning students can play, experiment, create, and test out new ideas and projects. Some popular activities include 3D printing, LEGO, iMovie filmmaking, Play-Doh, paper and craft projects, robotics, circuitry, construction, rube goldberg designs, writing, coding, gaming, popsicle sticks and food art construction for math and science, sand tables, music production, plus more. Media centers that explore and develop makerspace environments are louder and messier. Long gone are the days of silence. Today’s patrons want to communicate and share in social settings that encourage and develop collaboration, team building, and problem solving.
Makerspaces need to be created around several key concepts. First, the space and its components need to be portable. A fixed area in the media center will soon become outdated and overlooked. Can it be picked up and moved somewhere else (ie. outside, to a classroom, in a lab, etc.) ? Second, makerspaces need to be interest driven. So you got a great idea for a space? Do a trial test before spending a lot of money. Pilot a small program or provide just a sampling of the overall makerspace. It is not going to have an impact on students if it doesn’t fulfill a need or a demand. Third, rotate ideas/projects through your makerspace environment. If your students become bored or you lack involvement then it is time to change the space and the activity. Our patrons demand change so continually reflect upon the usage of the space and the maker activity that you are providing.
Originally an avenue for promoting and providing STEM activities, makerspaces have helped to draw attention to the creative side of the student population. As a result, the term STEAM has gained popularity for including the arts into the growing list of activities that can be delivered through makerspaces. But, the best thing about makerspaces is that they are housed in a location where students can access print and digital materials to read or research more about the concepts or ideas that are generated just by partaking in a makerspace activity. So, I think it is time to throw another letter into the mix so that you end up with STREAM. The “R” of course, represents the necessity of the students to read in order to comprehend key concepts or explore answers to questions generated out of the interest with the makerspace.
STEM – STEAM – STREAM
Media centers today have a lot to offer in terms of space, products, services, activities, and value. These prime locations and the leadership that’s happening within them mean that digital media spaces are quickly emerging as a prime venue to host student and staff exploration in the new age of education. These forward thinkers, their spaces and the tools that they provide will continue to grab our attention as they model what it means to “think outside of the box.”