6 must-haves in a modern media center

Here are the top six considerations that all school districts should factor in when developing modern media centers for 21st-century learners

Our county is on track to outpace the nation’s population growth between now and 2024, and is posting 8.7 percent annual growth (compared to 3.9 percent for the U.S. as a whole). With a current population of over 1.4 million, our area is perpetually in need of new or expanded school facilities to accommodate these ongoing increases.

When a new subdivision began welcoming residents to the Sun City Center area in early 2020, we realized that we needed a new elementary school to accommodate those families. With our media specialists at the heart of the decision-making and planning process, our district set out to build a new facility from the ground up.

6 elements of a great media center

At the epicenter of the project is an innovative, modern media center where students and teachers come to learn, teach, interact, and collaborate with each other. In January 2020, our district began working with MiEN to start laying out the plans for Belmont Elementary School’s media center.

Here are six elements that we included, and that we feel played a crucial role in the success of our new facility:

1. Advance planning. The sooner you can get started planning out the interior design for your space, the better the results will be. Pick good design partners, work with reputable vendors, and use all the tools at your disposal to come up with a framework for your ideal space. Making the decisions, selecting the colors, and getting everything else done with plenty of lead time is very important, and particularly when it comes to ironing out the inevitable hiccups.

2. Functionality and flexibility. We can rearrange our entire library in less than an hour—even the circulation desk, shelving, and other structures. We aren’t stuck with one configuration, and that’s important, because what might work at one point doesn’t always work down the line.

3. Fun and inviting. Our space design partner came up with a fun, inviting layout where kids really want to come to spend time. It’s about serving who’s most important, and that’s the students who are going to be using the space.

4. Modern and modular. We looked at the designs from three different companies, and the one from MiEN stood out immediately. It included spaces for specific functions, soft seating for the reading areas, and a ‘genius table’ (similar to those used in Apple stores) complete with charging hubs. They came through with just about everything we were asking for right from the beginning.

5. Colors and finishes. We were very particular about the colors and finishes that we wanted in our media center, and our design partner found a way to work with us on all of those important points. Once you pick the colors, you’re going to be stuck with them for a while (versus the layout, which was modular and moveable), so be sure to put extra effort into that aspect of the project.

6. Compatible furniture. When you’re designing a new space, it’s easy to pick out all the shiny, cool furniture without realizing that it actually has to play a functional role in the media when all is said and done. Be sure to reconcile the physical space design and drawings when determining what type of furniture to put in that space. Address issues like window height, shelf height, and floor height—all of which factor into the overall space design.

The center of it all

Today, our media center is the hub for everything that happens at Belmont Elementary School. Teachers come here to pick up their technology, we train them on that technology, and students come in for reading and for lessons every week.

As the learning environment returns to normal, we expect that usage to increase exponentially. As that happens, our media center will remain a flexible, evolving space that grows right along with our school.

eSchool Media Contributors