Updating a 1970’s Library – The 5 Year Plan

Most librarians will never experience a complete gut job, re-design of their library space. This post documents my library’s physical space updates over the past 5 years.


1970’s faded orange, bright orange and dark brown carpet squares covered the floors at Glenbard South for over 30 years, except for the three bright orange ones that were added after red punch stained during open house. I had been hoping for 10 years that new library carpeting would make it to the summer work list and finally, it did.


The administration needed to carve a resource room for lunch time tutoring out of a corner of the library and that was the decision that made new carpeting possible. Yay! Best of all, the library staff could choose from a wide range of samples. We chose a new carpet cut (rectangles instead of squares) and had them lay it in a herringbone pattern. This carpet was a blend of colors (navy, teal light teal, sandy brown). The summer project architect pushed for bordering areas. He wanted to box out areas of the library to match-up with the lighting he’d installed the year before. He said if we didn’t frame some areas out the library that it would look like a Vegas ballroom. We held firm with our “No” decision, feeling that all the library furniture and shelving would work better at creating spaces. I am ever so thankful that our Assistant Principal let us weigh-in and didn’t follow the architect’s recommendation. Our library spaces don’t correspond with the overhead lighting. Borders would have ridiculous and the randomized woven carpet fibers create enough of a pattern.


I also began ordering comfy armless vinyl chairs. I know some of you are remembering the red plastic shiny vinyl used in restaurants long ago. This vinyl is more like pleather- it’s soft, leather like, durable and easy to clean. I’ve added 8 chairs over 3 years, but I can’t take the credit for finding them. I must give a shout out to Kathy Krepps at Hinsdale Central High School because I saw and sat in these chairs when I visited her school. Though she had purchased the fully loaded version of the chairs with arms and a stowable desktop surface. I opted for the more cost effective option- no arms, no stowable desk-top surface. My plan was to order 8 more with arms this year to complete our comfy fiction seating, but those will have to wait, because different seating became a priority.

Jasper (JSI) Encore Lounge Chairs in Navy Laredo Vinyl.

D04714D7_1936X2592   TECH BAR

Our school launched 1:1 for our freshmen with iPads. So this summer I asked if our maintenance department could build a tech bar with charging stations right in the front of the library. I emptied low bookshelves to make way for it. Instead my Assistant Principal hired the same cabinet craftsman that built our updated circulation desk to build the tech bar because we loved the modern design with the new carpet. It looks AMAZING!


So, If your library looks like it was designed during the Brady Bunch era, my advice to you is to get ready.  Have a student centered vision, make a list, visit area libraries and think about what you could do over time. Then, start making requests and sharing your vision with building and district administrators. Your plan just might fit into a summertime construction project.


So, now that the library has new lighting, new carpeting, comfy seating, the fiction collection has been genre-fyed, and a tech bar has been installed, it’s time to sit-back and enjoy it, but not for too long. My big hope is that we can create a coffee shop in the library in the next 2 years and it’s time to organize and create a maker space!


6 thoughts on “Updating a 1970’s Library – The 5 Year Plan”

  1. Your updates look wonderful, Diane! I am so grateful to have visited your library last year to get ideas for our new space at North. It took a flood to get rid of the dated space, but we have incorporated many of the ideas you put into your library in our space as well. Thank you for the advice! I did install a small coffee corner in our library. It is a bring your own K-Cup/Mug to our fancy Keurig now that the new school food laws are in place. But the kids like it so far anyway! Thanks again!

    1. Thanks Margaret! I had a student come in that graduated three years ago last Friday and she couldn’t believe the transformation. Are you still in Colorado?

  2. Thank you for your post about this! We recently had a Bond pass that is going to allow our 1960s library to be completely gutted and redone. I’m very excited, but very unsure of what to put in it. Thanks for the tips!

    1. Thanks Kari! I appreciate your comment and good luck! Hopefully you can visit some updated school libraries. It will definitely help you develop your own vision!

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