The Librarian Lists

I had never been a list maker.  However, my tune changed when I started my first job as a library media specialist.  I realized just how much multitasking was involved and began making lists as an organizational strategy.  Each month, in this online space, I will create a list as a way to organize my thoughts as I share my experiences as a middle school library media specialist. 

“We have space to hang out with our friends or to sit and read depending on how we feel.”

5 Ways to Create an Inviting Space in the Library:

1. Include Comfortable Seating

Every year when new students visit the library, they always exclaim about the different seating options. Our instructional chairs rock and lean back slightly in order to allow students the opportunity for movement while listening.  However, the movement is not so great that it becomes a distraction during instruction.  

In the past couple of years, I have also tried to bolster the availability of comfortable seating. Our most popular types of chairs are unique, flexible, and allow for several friends to pile on together.

2. Showcase Students and Their Work

In my experience, the more students see themselves reflected in a space, the more comfortable they feel.  Therefore, the library is filled with pictures of students and some of their work.  I try to include project examples from both library activities and class projects.  Students also often contribute work or photos to share.   

Students utilize the library’s online course and feel comfortable participating in the activities.

3. Provide Flexible Spaces along with Nooks and Crannies 

Students truly use the library for a variety of reasons throughout the day.  A part of the job that I take very seriously is making sure, regardless of the reason, each student feels comfortable in the space.  Today’s library is a bustling place that is much louder than in the past.  However, I want to make sure that there are places for students who want to recharge during the day or need a quiet place to study as well.  That is why having the ability to reconfigure the space with shelves and tables on wheels - along with different seating options - is imperative.  

Students are constantly adjusting the seating to find a place where they can be comfortable.

Students are constantly adjusting the seating to find a place where they can be comfortable.

4. Build an Online Community

The library space does not just exist between the walls of the school.  It also has a digital presence which inspires students to interact online.  One of the best developments to the library was including it in our school’s learning management system.  Students all joined the library “course” and are constantly interacting with the librarians, other teachers, and each other while discussing books and library business.  I post polls, questions, and contests for students to answer.  This is often the catalyst for students to come into the physical library and chat about books or a trivia question posted through the library course.  

Students utilize the library’s online course and feel comfortable participating in the activities.

 5. Never Underestimate the Power of a Magic Eight Ball

This may sound too much like the witch in “Hansel and Gretel” luring children to her lair with a candy house, but I have a lot of little games, toys, and action figures around that students like to play with.   I have a magic eight ball on my desk that is used constantly.  Students will come in, ask it a question, find the answer, chat with me or the library associate for a little bit, and then head out.  There are also random Rubik’s Cubes and puzzle balls scattered around the library to engage students when they are not working.  

Bonus - Student Perspectives

I asked multiple students to share what made the library inviting to them.  Here are some of their answers: 

“The chairs.”

“There are more than just books, there are Legos, graphic novels, magazines, and comfy chairs.”

“I love how open the library can be.”

“We have space to hang out with our friends or to sit and read depending on how we feel.”


Katherine Nelson is the Resource Center Director at Carleton Washburne Middle School in Winnetka, Illinois, and has been in her school district for nine years.  She is passionate about creating engaging research opportunities, collaboration, and maintaining a vibrant learning community for students.  Follow her on Twitter @lookitup1514.

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