Open Media Centers: the Heart of the School

Posted by Julie Walleisa | February 24, 2019

Making Literacy and Content Creation Part of Students' Daily Experience

Many elementary school educational specifications or project goals talk about how the library or media center should be the heart of the school and a more active and engaging space, but often concerns about things like collection counts and standardized testing, and a more traditional vision of a library, end up taking precedence over that vision. There are many ways to overcome these concerns through open media centers that make literacy and reading a prominent part of students’ daily experience while embracing more hands-on content creation using mobile technology.

On one recent project, the design committee was immediately drawn to an early floorplan concept based around a centrally-located media center envisioned as an open and interactive space, rather than a quiet library with fixed computer labs. Our team studied different options for how this might work for the school’s needs. As the design developed, this central media center evolved into a main area that is completely open to the corridor and can spill out into that space, and a second area that can be opened or closed through sliding glass panels.

To balance the desire for openness and activity with staff’s practical concerns, this design:

  • Allows students to circulate past the media center every day
  • Provides just enough solid wall to accommodate book collections while giving more floorspace to content creation and activities
  • Incorporates lighting and acoustic treatments to support different types of activities
  • Connects to an adjacent enclosed space to shelter students during lockdown 
  • Locates the Media Center near other active spaces to minimize concerns about disruption
  • Has easy access to an outdoor reading courtyard

This is just one example of the way traditional elementary libraries have transformed to use strategies like distributed collections, maker spaces, mobile technology, and reward spaces to promote multi-channel literacy and increase student engagement. 

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