ALA Annual 2016

Laying the Foundation of Space Design: Design Principles

Libraries across the nation are thinking and planning about how to make our spaces more reflexive and responsive to our customers. As co-chairs of this year’s ALSC’s Charlemae Rollins President’s Program, we are very excited to be helping build President Andrew Medlar’s vision of enlivened, active learning spaces through the ALSC 2016 Charlemae Rollins’ President’s lecture “Oh the Places You’ll Go.” This theme, based on this national movement in our libraries and children’s rooms across the nation, will explore President Medlar’s vision of creating innovative and active spaces for all children in all libraries.

It is particularly fitting for Andrew’s presidency as he works in the cradle of inventive space for children: the Chicago Public Library is the professional home of Charlemae Rollins, the visionary African-American children’s librarian who tirelessly fought for racial identity and equality for children in literature and in library space. The Chicago Public Library-Hall Branch Children’s Room is named for Ms. Rollins, and is the impetus for Andrew’s approach to the ASLC President’s program. We hope you will join us for an afternoon that will range from that which is immediately practical to the highly aspirational ways in which space can be transformed for children in the 21st Century. Among the topics we will be exploring will be developing and using design principles. But what exactly does that mean?

Join us for the 2016 ALSC President’s Program to hear from Brian Lee, a Principal partner of Skidmore, Owens and Merrill, the architectural firm who builds skyscrapers around the world and neighborhood libraries as well. Brian is one of a panel of expert speakers who will address design principles and library space and help us all envision “Libraries: The Space to Be.”

Good space planning is essential in the development or redevelopment of the children’s library. But even before a space can be planned, it is essential that the real foundation be, metaphorically, laid. This starts with codifying the main beliefs that cradle your project. This is called design principles and is widely used from artists to bloggers to software developers and certainly is a mainstay in architecture and interior design. Design principals are the guiding truths for your project: the articulation or the manifestation of how you want your space to interact with the people who will use it. They can also be thought of as the guideposts for your project, and will provide multiple touchstones for you as you develop them. We have personally found that this approach not only solidifies the rules for the project, but also helps you shape your vision for service and methodology for how you approach library service to children and families.

Design principles are the framework, and the keystone for any complex library construction project. This proverbial flag in the ground for the project serves you well with various stakeholders, from elected officials to library directors to children’s staff to, most importantly, our users, the kids. They can keep multi-faceted projects on track and they help you visualize your new space as they relate to children and family’s needs. They can also help you decision making all through the process: from planning to programming.

What do design principles really do for you as a children’s librarian?

  • Help you visualize your goals for library space and service
  • Assist you and your library team to remain focused on a consistent vision
  • Reflect your values and principles for the library space
  • Empower you to make choices for your library and the people you serve

Sounds good, right? But how I start, you might ask. It’s actually easier than you might think. As you enter a design process, you want to think about what the absolute truths of your library space will be. This is often an iterative process for us that will change as your thinking and learning about space and the way space influences learning grows and changes. Do you see your space as a quiet, contemplative area for introspection? Is it a clanking center of STEM learning? Is it a little bit of both? Giving voice to these concepts is at the heart of design principles.

We will post again next month on making ECRR2 come alive in library space and will count down to the President’s Program with monthly updates on some of the topics about which you will learn more about at this year’s Charlemae Rollins’ President’s Program: Oh the Places You’ll Go.

We hope to see you in Orlando!

Christy Estrovitz and Liz McChesney
Co-Chairs, ALSC 2016 Charlemae Rollins President’s Program

One comment

  1. Andrew Medlar

    Thank you, Christy & Liz–see you soon in Orlando for this incredible afternoon!

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