Saturday, September 10, 2011

Library Makeover

Photo of Discovery College Library taken by Dianne McKenzie, modified using

Recently I had the opportunity to attend a Kevin Hennah workshop on reinventing the school library. It was a whole day workshop with over one thousand slides of ideas and successful reinventions.

Kevin then had a full day consultation in our library where he walked around with me, discussing what changes we could make regarding signage, displays and making the library sleek and a cool space for the students to hang out. As we have a new library, there was not much requirement for new shelving and big ticket items.

Kevin has a couple of favourite items that he advocates - get rid of paper signage and displays, use vinyl custom designs stickers where possible, remove the dust covers from shelves, and use interesting colours, textures and fabrics in the library furniture and as many front facing books as you can get into the library, using mainly slat wall.

He is coming from a corporate background where he has spent many years working with companies like 'The Body Shop' to make their stores better and to sell more. His ideas were great, and we will be adopting some of them in our library, particularly the slat wall (if we can find a supplier in HK that will sell us less than 200 pieces). Many of his ideas were permanent changes, with limited opportunities for change for current event celebrations like Mid Autumn festival, Roald Dahl's birthday etc. so, I will be taking his ideas, but trying to make sure we still have the flexibility for fun and educational displays to the space which the students love.

Kevin left us with many ideas, and one of the biggest hurdles would be having the creative abilities to turn these ideas into actual changes to the library, and thankfully we have just employed someone who is working with us 2 days a week purely as a creative assistant to help us with displays - both physical and digital. She is a graphic designer who has worked in advertising. After only two days she has thought of ideas to complement Kevin's to transform the space, the first of these is to transform the returns box we have outside the library on the ground floor.

Printing is dirt cheap and extremely good quality in Hong Kong with a variety of mediums to choose from, so we will be taking advantage of this to create vinyl stickers, foam board covers and large banners to move away from the paper displays. I will be posting before and after photos so you can share the journey.

I am also collecting images for inspiration of the transformation on Pinterest - a tool which I am loving!


Staceyt said...

Hi Dianne, Kevin Hennah really is full of great ideas that are achievable. I found a lot of inspiration on Flickr , lots of the university libraries have put their photos up under "libray design"

Dianne said...

Thanks Stacey - will continue to search for inspiration ....

The Librain said...

Dianne, although my library is tiny compared to yours, so it's not really comparable, we used a lot of slatwall to improve displays etc. We had pieces made to slot easily into the shelf carcases and these can be moved around when we want a change. We didn't use a library furniture company to make these, but instead a shopfitters. I also bought acrylic fittings such as poster holders, display shleves and leaflet holders from shopfitters. These were loads cheaper and they look really good.

You can see some of it on

Dianne said...

Thanks Ann,

I have found a slatwall supplier that will do smaller amounts in HK and we have started on our shelf rearranging today and taking dustcovers off shelves today.

I like how your slatwall goes around the room on the wall.

Anonymous said...

Kevin also gave a presentation to our library about library design. However, I wasn't as impressed as the blogger. Especially not the statement he made about focussing on the younger demographic as "old people are going to be dead soon anyway". I thought that was appalling, and what was even worse was that the majority of librarians at the presentation accepted his argument uncritically. One of those, unfortunately, was the director of library services where I work. During our library refurbishment, thousands of perfectly good books were removed from the collection (a collection which was often praised by locals and visitors alike for its range) to make way for more furniture. The depletion of the collection was obvious to most people and commented on. The main entrance which faced onto the street was sealed off and the entrance at the rear was converted into the main entrance, much to the annoyance and inconvenience of many. The refurbishment is complete and yes, the interior looks lovely. It's a pity that the door count is 40% lower than the same period a year before.

Dianne said...

I think with Kevin's presentations you take what you think will work in your situation, for the benefit of the clients. Our improvements have definitely changed the library and customer service for the better. Simple things like taking the tops off the shelves, better signage, slatwall, the boards behind the circulation desk, the vinyl signage at the entrance, etc. All very simple and cost effective improvements.

I did not accept everything as I disagreed with many of his ideas - even the ones for our specific library as I didn't think it would work as well as he said it would. I also think the ability to change things around in a school library is important to keep it fresh.

I also have seen libraries where the staff accepted everything and I am not sure I would have been happy with the results either.

Just comes down to picking & choosing what is most relevant.