This learning space is a primary school library. It is situated in a Prep- Year 6 Catholic primary school in the Redlands area of Brisbane, an area which began to urbanise from its predominantly farming land usage in the mid-1970s. The school was started in the early 1980s and most buildings (including the library) were constructed early in the school’s life. The campus is very large with sporting, play and natural areas. The school population of approximately 500 students come from predominantly middle income families, with 3% identifying as indigenous, and another 3% from language backgrounds other than English. The school focuses on building supportive relationships between staff and students as part of its mission statement and ethos. As is typical in most schools, there are a number of students who experience learning and/or behavioural challenges. The Brisbane Catholic Education DELT initiative, highlighting a strong focus on literacy, visible learning pedagogy and explicit teaching ensures that these students receive a great deal of support, often in the library space.
The library space itself was built slightly to the side of the school centre, but within easy access of most classrooms. It is a large open space (approximately 350 square metres) and its structure and décor are typical of its age. There is lots of exposed honey coloured brick, louvered windows and glassed offices. There are two double doored doorways, although only one is accessible (due to the school chicken area). The collection of books are stored in wall mounted tubs, small cases and large book shelving systems. Approximately one third of the floor area is taken up by desks and chairs, predominantly used by the learning support teams – in small group and individual sessions, sometimes with 4 or 5 groups utilising the space at the same time. The story telling area includes a wonderful big chair and some cushioning which can be moved around, while there are is a set of two two seater lounges in an area near the front door.
Summary Of Evaluation Findings
After completing the VAST Heuristic, and further reflection, there are several key positive and negative findings that impact the users of this learning space.
The building is close to most classrooms, and access is undercover. It is surrounded by quiet space (garden areas) so no playground noise encroaches. Wonderful natural light infuses the space, which is air conditioned for comfortable climate throughout the year. Work rooms with plenty of storage space are available for Library Technician and Teacher-Librarian, another room is used for Teacher Resources. There is WiFi access throughout the building. What flexible and soft furnishing that is available is constantly used in flexible ways by students. The full time Teacher-Librarian and part time Library Technician are enthusiastic about children, positive community relationships, reading and learning.
This learning space feels old. Its dull, dirty walls, sills and furnishings project an air of decay, and it is filled with fixed, outdated and inflexible furniture evoking a traditional “sit and do” silent learning environment. Thankfully this attitude towards learning has evolved, so the many learning support groups who use the table area often battle to be heard over each other. Shelving is old and tattered and quite high which creates issues of access for shorter children and issues for visual duty of care for staff. There are no cosy nooks for quiet reading or quiet chats with friends. There are no areas set aside for creative endeavours – the entire area is carpeted with no access to sinks and little access to electrical sockets. Whilst students from Year 4 onwards have their own personal devices there is no recreational access allowed to ICT in the library except when searching the catalogue.
BRIEF Statement of Design Problem
The ASLA/ALIA Standards for Teacher-Librarians state that teacher-librarians need to provide and promote teaching strategies which develop and promote life-long learning skills and strategies including the use of ICTs. Standard Two expects that teacher librarians cultivate an environment where learners are encouraged and empowered to read for information and pleasure. Current educational theory supports the use of pedagogies which facilitate and encourage students to collaborate with each other to inquire and construct their own understandings within a supportive, flexible environment. This space needs to be reborn, providing flexible and comfortable learning areas which are aesthetically pleasing and encouraging of both relaxation and of collaborative learning.
Image: Anni Gold (2017)