A Can of Paint and a Little Teamwork

A Can of Paint and a Little Teamwork

Rebranding our Library

The library on the Dhahran Campus of the International Schools Group (ISG) is quite literally the heart of the campus. Historically, the library became known as the “Learning Resource Center,” and the staff recently decided to rebrand it as the “Learning Commons.” We will be moving to a new campus in a few years, but in the meantime, the library needed a facelift to coincide with its new vision, mission, and brand that didn’t cost a fortune. The result has been a renewed Learning Commons that students and staff are loving and using in new ways!

ISG is fortunate to have a Special Projects Manager who works with teachers and staff to plan their learning spaces to be more efficient and effective. She, along with a team of support services staff, worked with the librarians and library staff to identify needs and create a wish list of what the new Learning Commons should look like. We then worked together to rethink the various spaces around the library and work on solutions. Perhaps the biggest challenge was the sheer volume of students who use the space, particularly before school and during lunch. Even though students are coming to the library by the hundreds at times, classes are still going on within the library due to the different schools’ schedules. Librarians were struggling to be heard and to keep the attention of the classes. Tables and soft seating were clustered right next to areas where classes met, and the noise levels were often unmanageable. There were also numerous secluded areas within the library where students could get into mischief. A need for increased student access to more and different technology tools was identified as well. The library felt closed off, impersonal, and students even had difficulty finding books!

After many revisions, we felt we had a workable plan to start with, and after the annual book weeding process, we boxed up 80% of our print resources in the spring of 2018 in preparation for support services to move and remove bookshelves and paint the walls over the summer. As part of the branding, we selected colors from the three school logos that we serve as accent colors for various areas, and the majority of the walls were painted a light gray. Bookshelves were moved away from windows, both to protect the books from UV rays and to open up the library and bring the outdoors in!

If we needed furniture for a particular area, we either repurposed furniture we already had, or we visited the school’s “boneyard” of unwanted furniture, and our amazing support staff rebuilt and painted whatever we could use. We added some counters and high seating in our expanded Tech Hub and included some charging stations for various devices. We redesigned our circulation desk areas to make them more visible and accessible. We added several clearly identified stations around the library for catalog searching, and we also eliminated desktop computers around the library because students were primarily using them for gaming, not instructional purposes. Most students bring their own devices, but if students need computers, they are able to check out devices from the Tech Hub to use in the library.

We scattered the tables and soft seating areas to diffuse the noise level and limit congregating while still allowing collaboration. We sacrificed a large office area to create a true Quiet Zone where students can study and read in an actual quiet space. We relocated the bookable classroom area to an open area beside a large bank of windows that allows fewer distractions and less external noise. In some of the darker, cozier areas, we placed single soft seats for individuals to curl up with a good book.

After all of the furniture was relocated and new spaces were identified and furnished, we had two connecting spaces with no real purpose (a great problem to have!). We are in the process of turning one of the spaces into a permanent green room/production space that students and teachers can book and use. The other space is being converted into a quasi-Makerspace. Each week, we will add supplies, instructions, and challenges for students to work on. Our inaugural project was origami. We placed instructional books and paper on the tables and provided a large touchscreen TV in the area that looped origami how-to. Students could watch and pause the videos as they created their projects. It was a huge hit! The students made over 450 cranes and we created a hanging installation to showcase their work.

We also created an outdoor covered patio area, The Nest, that students and staff use for breaks and that classes can use for outdoor classroom activities. The space was formerly a patio with no furniture and no covering, so it was mostly unused. Once the weather cools down, it will soon be one of the most popular places on campus!

At this point, our primary expense has been paint plus hundreds of man-hours of labor, but the results have been outstanding already! We have seen an increase in Learning Commons usage, but the noise levels are noticeably lower throughout the day. Patrons are able to find quiet places to study and collaborative spaces to work with peers.

by Yvonne Mayo, Learning Commons Coordinator

Photo Credit: Renju Jacob, LC Tech Hub Coordinator