School library

Redesign your school library

The challenge is to redesign your high school library and re-think how your school’s library should, or could, function as technology advances and our notion of study and working changes accordingly. 



Libraries are no longer being used as places to store and distribute books, nor do they serve as place for only studying. With changes in technology libraries have been forced to change their ways of operating and instead of closing their doors they are adapting by becoming People-Centric instead of being Book-Centric. They become community resources for collaborating, creating, and making.

Design Brief

The challenge is to redesign your high school library and re-think how your school’s library should, or could, function as technology advances and our notion of study and working changes accordingly. What does a library look like that is designed around a person’s knowledge needs instead of only storing and cataloging books?

You may redesign the interior of the existing library space, expand on the existing space, or design a completely new addition on to your school building. Your design should contain all the spaces and functions required for a typical school library – a variety of seating options for students (inside and out!), as well as book and media storage, space for the librarian, computer areas, audio/visual labs, and meeting spaces. You may also want to include a cafe, information kiosk, or a workshop area. The redesigned library should include ideas for both old and new ideas for a library. You should also consider sustainability issues and the environmental impact of your design.

Collect Info

In the Collect Info step of the design process, you try to gather as much information as possible about your existing school library, along with the students and staff who will use it.  You can't propose new solutions until you figure out and document what the existing problems are.

Try This

Walk around the interior of your school building and take photos or a short video of the existing library. You can upload those photos or short videos here. Be sure to write a detailed description for every image. (If your school grants access to YouTube, check out this short video that some students in Chicago made about the design of their school building.)

  • Interview students, librarians, and other staff about what they think of the existing library.  What changes would they make to spaces if they had a choice?
  • Make a list of those features that you really like about how your library looks and functions.
  • Make separate list of all the ways that your current library is not so well designed (chairs may be uncomfortable or the light is poor, or there are really great outdoor reading areas).
  • Take measurements of the overall dimensions of your existing library.
  • Take interior photos of the hallways and entrances that lead into your existing library.
  • Visit Flickr or another photo sharing site and search for other types of libraries to determine good and bad examples of how libraries accommodate user’s needs, especially teens. 
  • Post images of buildings, colors, designs, textures, or other things that inspire you in this step. Make sure you give credit to your source!

Think About

  • How many students need to be seated in the library during one period?
  • What types of furniture is used in the existing library? Does it need to be movable? Why or why not?
  • What are the different pathways that students use to get into the library now?
  • What types of media are available in your library? How are they stored? Are books an important part of your library?
  • Does your new school library need to look like the same typical library with long stack of books?  What other study spaces around the world are inspiring and interesting?

Brainstorm Ideas

In the Brainstorm Ideas step of the design process, you put some early ideas down on paper that show what you've found in the Collect Info step.  You also might take more photos to show specific new ideas you have. 

The simple diagrams you make here will help you understand how the existing library location and design compare with your new ideas.

Try This

  • Walk around the exterior of your school building and take photos of possible locations for your new library with outdoor seating.
  • Draw a floorplan of your existing library and include it in this step.
  • You may also want to include a site plan of your school, showing where the library fits into the school.
  • Use Google Maps to view and print out an aerial photo of your school.
  • On a piece of tracing paper placed over the aerial photo of your school, sketch a diagram showing a large arc around the building to show the path of the sun throughout the day.  This drawing is called a site analysis diagram. (Remember, the sun rises in the east and sets in the west.)
  • Draw other lines on this diagram to indicate the best views around the building.

Think About

  • Will this library replace your school's existing library or become an addition to a different part of the building? Will it be built in an empty lot or space?  Will it be underground or built on the roof?  You decide.
  • Spend some time looking at the aerial photo of your school.  What types of other buildings surround your school?  Homes, businesses, parks, parking lots, or an empty field?  How will these other buildings impact the design of your new library?
  • What types of streets surround your school? Are they busy or quiet?
  • Based on the site analysis diagram you've sketched, where is the sun located throughout the school day? 
  • How can the indoor and outdoor seating areas of your new library be positioned to take advantage of the sunlight for good lighting?

Develop Solutions

In the Develop Solutions step, your rough ideas come together with drawings and models that can show others your solutions for a new library.

Important! Since DiscoverDesign is about investigating the design process, the other people viewing your project - other students around the country, your teacher, and the mentors - want to see how your ideas have changed over time. This means that while you're working on your digital model, you’ll want to be sure to keep re-saving it with a new file name every few days as you work through the steps.

Try This

  • Draw a sketch or use software such as Google SketchUp, AutoCAD, or Revit to illustrate your ideas.  You can upload photos (JPG files) from your SketchUp model, video fly throughs (FLV files) of your SketchUp model, or drawings (DWF files) from AutoCAD.
  • Consider including the following types of spaces and furnishings:
    • indoor seating area (tables, seating)
    • outdoor seating area (tables, seating)
    • book storage (shelves)
    • media storage
    • audio / visual labs
    • computers
    • meeting spaces
    • librarian desk (place to check out or return materials)
    • small office for library staff
    • cafe
    • bins for recycling

Final Design

The final step of the design process is to create more finished drawings that illustrate your ideas to others. Remember, your explanation text, and the types of drawings, images, and models you share need to tell the whole story of your project to someone who may or may not have ever visited your school.

Continue to collect feedback from your peers, teachers and the online community to help you improve on your final design. Be sure to review and add constructive comments on the work of other students who are solving the same design problem. If your ideas change, be sure to explain your thinking and let others know about the new work you have posted to your account.

You might want to share floor plans, elevations, renderings of your digital model, photos of a physical model, or a video animation of your model.

But you aren't done yet! Be sure to comment on other projects in the competition to foster, encourage, and build an online design community of learners in DiscoverDesign.  CAF will also recognize students that provide both encouragement and constructive criticism on students' work throughout the run of the competition.