Library Layout Lauded
'Learning Commons' design helps students learn better, officials say.
Fifth-grader Andrew Sun loves the new layout of the Crisafulli Elementary School library.
Though the circular space is about the size of two classrooms and has no walls, an innovative design by Librarian Buffie Diercks allows students like Sun to study in a variety of defined settings cordoned off by bookshelves.
For class projects, there's a cluster of desks by the far wall. A desk to the side can be used by a small group of four-five students. A desk at the entrance is for individual students.
In the middle of the space are several beanbags popular for reading. To the side are chairs and a rug where teachers can read aloud to students. Scattered around the perimeter are low reading chairs by the windows for students to read quietly.
Andrew said the design makes the library seem bigger than it actually is. And he likes that he has designated spaces to work with classmates or by himself.
"It's very comfortable," he said.
On a recent school day, Andrew researched fireflies at the cluster of tables by the far wall. His classmates next to him researched other species, helping each other as they went along. Two students studied in the quiet group area, while a single student was at the individual table. Several students were plopped down on the beanbags completing assignments.
Andrew favors new design over the previous one, which featured a circle of desks orbited by bookshelves.
The new layout -- called the "Library Commons" -- helps students learn better, school officials said.
"We want to encourage talking and sharing ... while giving students quiet spaces," Diercks said. "It's a shared space, a commons, like any town in New England has."
She said the orbital design was aesthetically pleasing, but not practical.
"There was no place to have quiet reading time," Diercks said. "We're utilizing (the new design) for the purpose of education, not beauty."
Diercks was inspired to redesign the space after taking a school media center administration class at Salem State College for her professional certification.
The redesign cost the school nothing. Diercks simply rearranged the bookshelves and tables, then used credits from a book fair program to buy nearly $1,000 worth of beanbags and reading chairs.
Principal Julie Vincentsen said it's made a huge difference.
"(The library) is more welcoming and inviting," she said. "It's the heart of the school."