Changing your learning space without spending money

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I’ve been thinking and reading a lot about learning spaces, and how to create a physical space most conducive to learning.  My library is pretty small, with no natural light, lots of heavy furniture, and a 30 computer lab stuck in the middle of it.  While I may be limited somewhat by the physical space, I have been brainstorming ideas to make the most efficient use possible of the space.  I want it to be conducive to learning, friendly to students, and flexible enough to still serve as a multi-purpose space for after-school meetings, class instruction, etc.  I’ve been creating layout diagrams, making dream furniture wishlists, and writing grants to create a learning commons style atmosphere.

After watching this amazing classroom transformation on Edutopia, I realized that I could make some significant changes in my media center without spending any money at all. I was struck by how the classroom in that video had seemed so crowded, but that just by rearranging the existing tables and chairs, more space was opened up for the students to move around in.  After an event in the media center where we had the tables grouped together, it suddenly hit me – I could make my space work like this too.  I got some of my student assistants to help me move around tables and chairs, and before we knew it, there was suddenly WAY more space.

This is the class instruction/Maker area of the media center, and before we moved everything around we had six individual tables with six chairs around them, seating 36 (our average class size is 26ish).  I also had other tables to the side for small groups that seated another ten for a total of 46 chairs.  When a full class was in the library, it was impossible to move around and provide feedback to groups- I would have to circulate around the perimeter.  It was difficult to reach the bookshelves too.

By doubled up the tables and removing just a few chairs, I now have four groups of eight in the instruction area – still more than enough for a class with 32 chairs.  Then we have an additional table for small group study with six chairs.  The rearrangement cut into small group space a bit, but there’s several other nooks in the library for groups, and students usually just study in the instruction space anyhow.  Now, I can walk around the space when a class is meeting here.  I can talk with each group and find out what they’re doing.  And students wanting to check out can still get to their books.  It’s such a simple change, but it’s made a world of difference in our library.

Diana Rendina, MLIS, is the media specialist at Tampa Preparatory School, an independent 6-12 in Tampa, FL. Previously, she was the media specialist at Stewart Middle Magnet School for seven years, where she founded their library makerspace. She is the creator of the blog She was a monthly contributor to AASL Knowledge Quest from 2015-2018. Diana is the winner of the 2016 ISTE Outstanding Young Educator Award, the 2015 ISTE Librarians Network Secondary Award, the 2015 AASL Frances Henne Award & the 2015 SLJ Build Something Bold Award. She is an international speaker on the Maker Movement and has presented at conferences including AASL, FETC & ISTE. Diana co-authored Challenge-Based Learning in the School Library Makerspace with Colleen and Aaron Graves and is also the author Reimagining Library Spaces: Transform Your Space on Any Budget.


  1. […] parent and community needs throughout the day.  You can see what this area looks like currently in a recent post I wrote about rearranging your learning space.  We’ll be getting rid of our heavy wooden tables and chairs and replacing them with […]

  2. Wow, your library is huge compared to mine! And very new-looking. Sigh, my circ desk is 35 years old…

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