A School Library Transformed – Part 5: Summary and Round-up

This is the final installment in this series, describing the conversion of my K-12 library to a modified bookstore model. In Part 1 I described the changes I made to my library, Part 2 explains why I did it, Part 3 is about what I had to have in place before I did it, and Part 4 describes how I did it.

The title of my blog, ‘…Beyond Survival…’, speaks to my desire to overcome the trend in our schools to allow the library to dwindle in function and relevance and helps to explain why I have taken the chance on messing with traditional library arrangements.

There have been growing pains, a few steps back here and there when the process got ahead of the planning, but the response by my school community has been overwhelmingly positive. I will summarize here the steps taken in the project, pass on a few tips I learned along the way and links to other libraries and articles about the concept.

“That’s a question you hear a lot. “Was it worth it?”

Not certain what either “it” refers to, but generally we’re saying, “was the destination worth the journey? Was the effort worth the reward?”

The thing about effort is that effort is its own reward if you allow it to be.

So the answer can always be “yes” if you let it.”      Seth’s Blog

Summary of Steps

  • Observe and note subject-related requests from students, teachers and support staff.
  • Mind-map collection, connecting areas of related interest and curriculum themes.
  • Determine number of possible physical broad theme areas (Islands).
  • Create draft chart of Islands, listing divisions (Departments) beneath each one.
  • Physically sort books into Islands while severely weeding.
  • One Island at a time, sort books into departments, adjusting chart as necessary.
  • Reclassify and re-label each book.
  • Spine label includes code for Island and Department.
  • Colour-coded dots on top of spine for each Island.
  • Thematic classification labels wherever possible.
  • Arrange shelving to isolate or separate each Island as much as possible.
  • Install clear signs for each Island, smaller signs for each department.
  • Provide lots of space for face-out display.
  • Include realia (objects) and multimedia within each Island.
  • Include seating/tables.
  • Provide access to library catalog, databases and Internet.


  • Know why you want to make changes.
  • Know how it connects to your school’s goals.
  • Develop a vision for the change.
  • Outline the plan.
  • Get support from administration and the rest of your school community.
  • Keep an open mind and expect the unexpected.
  • Be prepared to apply some elbow-grease and loose some me-time.
  • Ask for help.
  • Delegate.
  • Listen to the needs and desires of your students and teachers, to the ideas of others and to your own hopes and doubts.
  • Be prepared for dissenters, respect and consider their opinions.

My Hopes for the Future

  • Tablet mounted on an end-panel at each Island  set to a home page with library catalog and Island-related links, especially audio and video.
  • Class set of mobile laptops or tablets.
  • More realia for hands-on learning.
  • Replace K-2 shelving.
  • Better and more attractive chairs.
  • Develop the courtyard outside the library as an expansion of the library space.


Creating the Customer-Driven Library: Building on the Bookstore Model by Jeanette Woodward. Beyond decisions about the arrangement of the books, this books makes you think about your clientele, or patrons: how are you meeting their needs and what makes them feel comfortable and welcome.

Mr. Dewey, I Bid You Adieu – Great article on the transformation of a middle school collection with some more good links at the bottom.

Miss Christine tells about her successful experiment with “featured collections” during her practicum, in Bookstore Model in the School Library.

Using  the Bookstore Model of Classification in an Elementary School Library: A Slideshare presentation of the project at St. Vrain Valley School District. (Click to watch the embedded videos.)

Anythink: A Revolution of Rangeview Libraries and the Anythinktank: great discussions and a Resource Kit.

There are 17 more great articles assembled here at A Media Specialist’s Guide to the Internet.

School Library Journal – Ditching Dewey: Hot Topic in Hartford – AASL 2013 (Added Nov. 2013)

My ‘New’ Library

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Things I Wish I Had Done Differently

I have no regrets about the arrangement of the books themselves. I have made adjustments to the initial plan and will continue to do so, but that’s the beauty of the system: it is very flexible.

  • The K-2 and YA areas are both a little smaller than I would like.
  • The tall shelves between the K-2 area and the ‘Canada and the World’ Island, block the Island off too much.
  • I should have put the book return on the open side of the circulation desk rather than in the aisle formed by display shelves.
  • I would not buy factory end-panels at all, but all slat-wall from a retail supplier instead.
  • I would buy shelving on wheels for the short, freestanding stacks.

As always, reader opinions are welcome and if you have your own tips to share, please do.

Much later – Part 6: Easy Street


Filed under Library Management, Rethinking My Library

5 responses to “A School Library Transformed – Part 5: Summary and Round-up

  1. What a lovely looking space; open and airy. Love the reading mat area!!

    • Thank you, Michelle. It is so much more wonderfully open than it was before. That’s the compliment I hear most. We were thrilled to have a local company sponsor that mat. The kids love it even more than I anticipated.

  2. Pingback: A School Library Transformed – Part 5: Summary and Round-up ... | Lifelong Learning through Libraries and Technology | Scoop.it

  3. Leigh

    Can you share the “organizational chart” of your Islands and the departments within? Also, do you have a French immersion collection? If so, how did you integrate it? Same islands, other language? Love this blog series and the results!

    • Hi Leigh, Sorry to take so long responding. Ironically, I find myself with a little blogging time now that school is out! The organizational chart is linked in the sidebar. And no, our school is not FI, so I can’t opine on possible organizational strategies. I’d love to hear what you do decide to do though. Good luck!

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