Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Library Metamorphosis – from 1970s to the 2000s

I was beside myself when we were told last fall that McGavock High School had been approved for a redesign. Let me tell you about the yearlong metamorphosis of the 1970s style McGavock High School library to a 21st century learning commons.

1st Step: Building a team. A team was put together last fall that consisted of an architect, project manager from the construction company, project manager from MNPS, representatives from the Nashville Public Library, the executive principal, our MNPS lead librarian, and us—the two McGavock librarians. We are the first high school to benefit from the experiences of earlier MNPS redesigns; the contracted people had all been involved in the recently redesigned libraries.

2nd Step: Planning. We met monthly and began the planning process with a question. What did we feel we needed? In planning, we had to come up with:

  •        A budget
  •        A design
  •        Estimate of materials and labor costs
  •        Technology supplies
  •        Other supplies

In 1971 it was important to have individual study space, plenty of room for audio visual materials, and plenty of room for the stacks. That meant that McGavock had old-style study carrels, old typing rooms with solid wood doors, and extra storage rooms and closets.  Conversely in 2015 McGavock needs collaborative learning spaces for small groups, less storage since most AV equipment was outdated,  a lot less room for the stacks because so much content is online. We needed to knock down walls and reconfigure existing ones. We had plenty of space, it just needed to be repurposed.

3rd Step: Moving Out! What a job! There was a lot of stuff—not just books. We are indebted to the Limitless Libraries and MNPS Library Services helpers who helped us pack up. We got books moved out very quickly, but we had to determine what supplies, furniture, and equipment was obsolete and what was needed when we moved back in. We also had to figure out what should be kept out for that last three weeks we were in school and in case we weren’t moved in by the start of the new year.

4th Step: Building. Obviously, I didn’t need to pull out hammers and saws, but I was glad that we were around during the summer when issues came up. It was also exciting to be around to witness how the space was changing.

5th Step: Moving back in. I feel like we’re still in this phase. Daily we can’t find things. And it is/was challenging to figure out where things should be placed. I’m not good with details. But once we opened, it was all worth it. All who come in are amazed and impressed. Thanks to a really great team of planners and builders, our space is inviting and flexible, encourages collaboration, and facilitates the use of 21st century tools. We have moved from a library repository for books to a library learning commons. Just today, I used the dry erase wall to help groups of Agriscience students draw giant Venn diagrams to help them grasp narrowing and broadening topics and getting to that all-important research question. I think the wall helped them grasp the concept a little better, and now that we have a flexible garage door classroom inside the library, I was able to teach without fighting over outside noises and distractions.


We have some missing technology and some undone finishing touches, but we have already been transformed from a plain, ugly caterpillar in our school building to a beautiful butterfly.  And students who have never voluntarily darkened our doors are coming in. Just like Library Girl’s (Jennifer LaGarde) library, our space is noisy and full of activity. I love it.

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N.Hammons
MNPS Librarian
@nrhammons

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