How to Improve Your School Library Media Center


If you have inherited a school library media center from another librarian or if your library just needs a pick-me-up, take a look at some suggestions for improving your school's library media center.

  • *Room Design

    The first thing you need to do is take a look at the design of the room. While it can be difficult to move shelves loaded down with books, it may be worth your while in the long run to make your space more accessible to students. Also, you may want to rearrange so that you have more free-standing display areas and room for new furniture or areas of interest.

    When you look around your media center, you should be able to see distinct areas. Even if there isn't a lot of room, patrons and visitors should be able to figure out where one area ends and another begins. If there are not clear distinctions in your area either with furniture and display arrangement or signage, it's time to get those things into place. The library is a place where kids can find things easily--it is for the patrons. It shouldn't be a place where the library workers are the only people who know where to find things.

  • *Circulation Desk

    I realize that clutter is automatically part of the deal in a library, but there's no reason to have a junk heap behind the circulation desk. If you need to buy plastic bins or organizers to keep clutter away, then do it. It is tacky and messy to have too many items out on the desk. Keep it clean and the library will be more appealing to patrons. It also will be easier for you to find what you need.

  • *Display Areas

    Check out your display areas and see what you need to add or improved. You should have an area for new books and featured books. If you don't, consider purchasing a free standing display. If your funds are limited, get permission to paint one spot of wall near the front a different color and make some kind of signage. (Even if you just paint behind the end of a long shelf, you need to designate a spot for new stuff.) If you want to paint the shelf, do that too. Again, if funds are limited, buy cheap acrylic frames from Wal-mart or the dollar store to create inexpensive professional-looking signage.

    Browser bins that are lower to the ground are great for books that won't stay shelved. Free-standing divided bins are available inexpensively from Calloway House--or you can use utility carts if funds are limited. Browser bins can contain paperback children's books or first readers since those are difficult to keep shelved. They can also hold comics and graphic novels.

  • *Shelf Signage

    If you don't have signage in your library, you need to start. Begin with paper laminated signs, and progress to acrylic or professional signage. There is cheap acrylic signage to be had on the Internet. (For example, large anti-glare acrylic frames with ceiling chains can be purchased for about $15-$20 each.) Start with one sign if you have to, but start. Signs can make or break a library.

    Look to see how your books are divided on the shelves. While signs at the tops of book cases work, so do book stops available from library supply companies like Demco. Kids don't always look at the tops of shelves, so consider colorful book stop signage which is pretty inexpensive. Spend about $50 to do one section and then move on to the next one when you have more funding. It is well worth the money spent to help students use the library more independently.

  • *Fun Furniture and Decor

    The library should look kid friendly. If you can, purchase a bright rug for the floor and create a reading area. Fun furniture also makes a great library. Plush book characters are fun as well.

    If funds are limited, find a rocking chair at a yard sale and paint it in bright colors. A single bright bean bag chair can improve things. Wall decals are available at places like Walmart for as little as $10 and can help make a wall more interesting. Paint is always an option--even if you paint one wall at a time or just paint a display area.

    Create a game area--even if you're just setting up a checkerboard or a jigsaw puzzle for everyone to work on. The jigsaw area is one of the more popular locations in my library media center.

    If you are holding a bank of posters, don't be afraid to hang them up. Change out what you're hanging on the walls to add interest. Don't allow your library to look dusty, tired, and old. It's time to make things more exciting!

  • *Welcome

    Make a big impact on patrons by improving your entrance area. If you have time to improve only one thing, this is the place to do it. Make the doors and entry exciting, colorful, and bright. It will leave a lasting impression on library visitors.

  • *Take Risks

    I am constantly looking for ways to make my library more interesting, and that means that I'm willing to take risks. If something doesn't work, I can always change it later. To me, it is worth moving something or adding something. If it doesn't work over time, then I change it back or change it again. It never hurts to stay fresh, and it might just increase your circulation!

Tips & Warnings

  • If your administration frowns on change, check first to be sure you can paint or move things. If necessary, get a coordinator involved to help convince the administrators that it's time to liven things up.
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