Thursday, December 19, 2013

Community Presentation

     A month ago our public librarian came to a faculty meeting and explained that he was looking for input for a new library.  Our community voted for a bond referendum to build this library, and he wanted to get a sense of what we needed, and how a library should work in this digital age.  He invited us to attend community meetings, but I was already percolating an idea for the students. I saw this as an opportunity for my students to have a say in what their public spaces needed for them to use it into the future.
     My students took this very seriously. They all know that our branch of the library is small, and used for many different purposes. It is also essentially one large room, so toddlers are chattering away while adults are studying for exams to improve their situation. Teenagers use it for study groups, and tutoring, and we're well on our way to checking out loads of materials on our devices instead of needing the physical book (although we still have loads of those too).  My students researched what other communities have created and then synthesized it all into their own recommendations.

Each team of students created their own presentation of what they thought would be useful.  Ideas such as a garden to teach others HOW to garden in your own yard, and also provide food to a local food bank. A  nursery room where tiny ones can play while their parents go find their own books to read, and gaming stations for students to play on for a certain time period.  They thought a small auditorium was important for productions, speakers and events, as well as a maker space where folks could try out programming and new technologies. 

     Each team also provided a floor they thought would work well.  I showed them the floorplanner app on Google, and they enjoyed seeing their 2-D work change into 3 dimensions.  This was more challenging for them because all of their ideas were NOT in the stock library of options, but we made do.  I found it interesting that only 1 group stuck with the idea of a LARGE open space, and instead drew many rooms for different purposes.  Our local library tends to be pretty loud - not due to rudeness, but just because of the open space and high level of activity. The one group who did incorporate a large space also added in a lot of side rooms for a variety of uses. 

     Today was the last part of our process where we presented to the local librarian.  He was very impressed with the ideas that the students had, and told us that many of these ideas are ones that he is hearing from others as well.  They really want this to be a community  building with a lot of uses, but budgets are always the driving force behind a project.  One of the things I wish I could have taught the students was to actually draft the  OUTSIDE of the building.  The librarian shared ideas for making the building more "green" and the students immediately jumped in with more ideas and opinions.    I also wish we could have spoken to the architect.  The librarian is going to pass on our handouts and ideas to the larger group, so we are crossing our fingers that we hear from the members of that group as well.  He did ask me if the students might be willing to present again if needed, so we'll wait to see what comes next. 
     Overall I was proud of the students, and I think they really took a lot of ownership of their ideas, and learned a lot from debating all of their wishes. 

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