During the 2022-23 school year, library staff were informed that both of the D219 high school libraries (Niles North and Niles West) would be undergoing significant overhauls. We knew that remodels were on the horizon as we hadn’t been updated in a very long time, but the timeline was earlier than anticipated. Tasked with this exciting prospect, we set out to transform our spaces into homes that would meet the current and future needs of the patrons we serve. Our school librarians were asked to develop a vision and be involved in guiding the design process and this is how the process went for us:
- Throughout the fall we visited other newly remodeled school libraries to get ideas and speak with librarians on what they liked and disliked about their new spaces.
- We regularly met with our design team, building admin, and our buildings and grounds staff.
- We started the process by talking about our vision (warm, inviting, books, DIY Den, definitely a fireplace) and the needs of our users (instructional and general usage)
- We asked our students what they wanted in the space.
- We looked at swatches and tweaked designs.
- Our efforts culminated in a trip to the Merchandise Mart to see and test out the furniture we thought would work in our spaces (I never knew that there are different chairs for different lengths of time). This process helped us immediately see what would and wouldn’t work in our spaces.
- We weeded 5,000 books (a necessary culling even without the move) and genrefied non-fiction (we had genrefied fiction during Covid).
- We finalized our designs and furniture choices and closed our libraries two weeks before school ended in May so we could pack everything.During summer break our libraries were emptied, gutted, and put back together and we are now in fabulous new spaces that were constructed specifically for the needs of our students and staff.
It’s been invigorating coming back into brand new spaces and seeing the excitement in our students as they find the perfect place to sit and spend their time. We realize how lucky we are that our administration trusted us with envisioning our new spaces and that the needs of the end users of our spaces were what drove our redesign process.
Please see our brief promotional video for a more in-depth look at the new Niles North Library: https://vimeo.com/860774485
This guest blog post is from Beverly Zbinden, Head Librarian/Library Coordinator at Niles North High School.