Our library is a workable environment. It has undergone different changes to the learning space over the past 10 years. It was originally a K-12 library. However, with the growth of the school, other buildings (and libraries) have been built, and it now is ‘home’ to upper elementary and middle school students.  There used to be a computer lab. Now the computers are gone as the school has embraced laptops, iPad and BYOD. Unfortunately when the lab went so did the walls, to ‘open up’ and create a sense of ‘space’. However, what this did was to remove the one space in the library that allowed for ‘quiet contained’ class sessions.  Considering that there could be an upper elementary recreational lunchtime use at the same time as a middle school English class (and vice versa) this has been quite detrimental to learning due to noise levels (no soundproofing elements included in the original building).

It is this and the central area as you walk into the library that is not serving the purpose that it perhaps could. The central area appears to be a ‘waste’ of space – too much space that could be utilised in other ways perhaps rather than used simply as a thoroughfare.

Even at such early days, immersing myself in the course readings, what strikes me as important is taking the time to think on design in relation to the space. I mentioned in an earlier reflection about the need to have frameworks – to look at what is technically feasible and commercially viable (Brown, 2009). Budgetary constraints will ensure that any type of design focus will have to look at what is achievable at low cost, at least for the immediate future.

In addition to the above frameworks, a focus specifically on the needs of the different users is required. Kuratko states we need to design with the user in mind, and include the customer in the design process to allow for immediate feedback (2012, 110). This is echoed by Brown who remarks, ‘we need to return human beings to the centre of the story. We need to learn to put people first’ (Brown, 2009, 39). Furthermore, there needs to be collective ownership of ideas with sharing of responsibility (Brown, 2009, 27). One step we have already taken is to seek feedback from the middle school students particularly, either with post-it note ideas or sketches as to how we may look at a ‘redesign’ of this space. Teachers also need to be canvassed.

While my colleague and I have discussed possible scenarios, it will be interesting to see whether ‘client feedback’ corresponds with our ideas (see sketch). Within the constraints, we have considered moving shelves outwards to extend the learning space of the ‘classroom’, add high standing tables in this environment. This will reduce the thoroughfare, but extend the learning space.  We also are considering adding more lounges and chairs near the magazine section. To begin.

central library sketch 2

So, this is the beginning of researching, seeking feedback, and documenting everything. As I mentioned, early days…

I do wonder about the role of design and the design process in the building and subsequent changes to the library environment. I think this is why designers are so important…was design thinking employed in the original and subsequent changes to the library space?

I also wonder if our library constitutes a wicked problem. That is,  as Horst Rittel 1960s defined the term ”a class of social system problems which are ill-formulated, where the information is confusing, where there are many clients & decision makers with conflicting values & where the ramifications in the whole system are thoroughly confusing” (Buchanan,1992, 15).


Brown, T. (2009). Change by design: How design thinking transforms organizations and inspires innovation. Harper Business. p.37.

Buchanan, R. (1992). Wicked problems in design thinking. Design Issues, 8(2), 15.

Kuratko, D., Goldsworthy, M., & Hornsby, G. (2012). The design-thinking process in innovation acceleration: Transforming organizational thinking. (pp.103-123). Boston: Pearson.https://www.csu.edu.au/division/library/ereserve/pdf/kuratko-d1.pdf

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