Top 5 Things to Remember BEFORE You Start Renovating Your Library

I am currently spending the second half of a $100,000 grant issued by the Lawrence Township Education Foundation.  Along the way I have learned a few things about renovating a library, and thought I would share the top 5 things you need to remember BEFORE you start renovating your library!

  1. Don’t design for now.  Design for tomorrow.  It’s tempting to design a space that meets the needs of what students are using this very second, but technology changes every 6 months.  Instead, do your best to design for the “next ten years.”  Obviously tech doesn’t last that long, but furniture and construction do.  I interviewed many librarians and heard many horror stories of “state-of-the-art” facilities that were made obsolete just months after their completion.  This was by far my most important lesson!
  2. Have a solid infrastructure for technology.  Do you have the wifi bandwidth to handle all of those new computers?  The plugs?  The chargers?  The carts?  Is IT ready and willing to provide the man/woman power to maintain all of those devices?  Where will they be stored?  Is there a plan for breakage and/or repair?  What virus protection or educational software will be purchased for those devices?  What about PD?  Who will be responsible for teaching all of your teachers how to use those devices and the software or apps they hold?  From scheduling to the right lighting, try to imagine the concentric circles of effect that your changes will make.
  3. Survey your teachers and students.  In the end, the library is for them.  Find out their opinions and pie-in-the-sky dreams.  They may give you some good ideas that you hadn't thought of before.
  4. Know you’re not alone!  In addition to speaking to other librarians who have gone through renovations, there are companies out there that SPECIALIZE in library renovations.  Some just do tech while others are experts in furniture.  Having a professional designer give you their opinions can make a huge difference.  And the best part is that most will give you a free consultation in the hopes that you’ll hire them, but you don’t have to.  In the end, I did, and our entire renovation was done through Library Interiors, Inc.  I ccouldn't have done this without them because they have done hundreds of renovations while it was only my first time.  They were a lifesaver.
  5. Take your time.  Renovations are exciting and sometimes when administration hands you money it’s so easy to get swept away.  Try not to get pressured to spend your money quickly.  The library existed without its changes for a while, and another six months to a year won’t hurt it.  HOWEVER, rushing to spend funds to beat a fiscal year or to get a discount on the latest gadget can severely damage your program.  Have a sensible strategic plan with appropriate deadlines, but allow yourself the time to really research what is best for your school and your students.  Be an informed decision maker and your administration will know just who to call the next time they have extra money to spend. 

Here are some resources that I’ve saved that helped me get there:

Library ReDesign Keeeb:
Renovation Videos:

I’m here if you have any questions!


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