Involve the library team when building or remodelling your school library

Building or remodelling your school library space is a major commitment for your school. Whether your plans are for a purpose-built library, a classroom conversion, or integration into a larger innovative learning environment, developing your library space is a significant investment for the school.

This blog post discusses some steps to help you get your library design right and how the expertise of your library team is essential to making that happen.

Architectural drawings
Photo by Amigos3D. Pixabay. License to use.

Getting started

The Ministry of Education has property processes and requirements to follow. Their documentation sets out the steps for managing your project from start to end, including establishing a project team. The project team brings together people with a range of expertise, including building project management, architecture, and design. Property Portal — a repository of property tools and information for New Zealand schools.

Ministry of Education's project management requirements — information on project management requirements that must be followed when property work is being done at schools.

Library design expertise

Throughout development, the project team will need input from people who understand library management, library services, library design, and teaching and learning, so that their knowledge and experience is incorporated into your library plans. This should include input from:

  • all your library staff members
  • your Teacher with Library Responsibility, if you have one
  • teachers and students, including those who make frequent use of the library space and resources and those who don’t
  • your local Services to Schools Capability Facilitator.

The project brief

In the early stages of the project, include your library team perspective in the 'education brief', which is a section within the overall project brief. 

Having a clear vision of what you want to achieve is the first step here. This will involve gathering information from your school community. Answering these questions will help you create a vision for your library, contribute to the education brief, and guide your library design decisions:

  • Why is our library important?
  • Who is it for?
  • What services will the library provide to support your school’s vision and goals?

Services to Schools provides a number of resources to help frame your thinking around these questions. Some useful web pages include:

  • Purpose of the school library — how the school library helps your students, staff, families, and whānau gain new knowledge, skills, and dispositions for learning and personal development.
  • School community profile — helps you identify the characteristics of your school community to inform the development of your library services and collection management.

Project design proposal

Using information from the project brief, budget, site details, and consultation with stakeholders, the design team may develop and present several ideas through different design stages before arriving at the final plan for your library.

Make sure people with library experience and library design expertise have opportunities to provide feedback on each design.

1. Reviewing concept designs

As you consider each concept presented by the design team, you might find it helpful to use our School Library Development Framework — look at the four service elements and provide feedback on each.


  • Does the physical space support a range of teaching and learning styles and activities?
  • How might this design allow you to foster the enjoyment of reading in your school?
  • Does this design include spaces relating to library and resource management, such as a library staff work area, adequate storage space, and proximity to teacher resources?


Where will books and other materials be housed within this design? Consider shelving requirements and possibilities, particularly flexible shelving options.


Does the design empower people to make connections, such as:

  • socialising with friends
  • working collaboratively with peers and colleagues
  • allowing community use
  • incorporating technology that enables wider connections?


Does this design make the library accessible and welcoming? For example:

  • Is it centrally located?
  • is the interior visible from outside?

2. Working with a developed design

With your feedback and an agreed concept for your library, the design team will produce a developed design. You can now start to look at putting the design into practice. This is generally the final opportunity to provide feedback before a final design is produced. When you’re presented with a developed design:

  • you might find journey mapping helpful to check flows through the proposed design according to your service plans
  • check that any technology used in your library can be integrated into the design, remembering the rapid pace of technological change and how this might affect your future needs.

3. Implementing your detailed design

Once the detailed design is agreed, construction can begin. While the building work is underway, think about what needs to be done to make the library ready for occupation.

Furniture and fittings

What will you need, and where will everything go? Build in flexibility wherever possible. 

Check our school library suppliers list and talk with vendors (such as shelving companies) to explore options.

Technology integration

Aim for flexibility and future-proofing as much as possible.


Good signage can make it easy for people to find what they need, and know what’s expected — and what’s possible(!) — in different spaces.


How will you keep your school community up-to-date with all the exciting news about your library?

If the new or renovated space leads to changes to your library services and practice — how your library staff work, where, and when — you’ll also need to let your community know about these.

Need more help?

Our Capability Facilitators are here to help.

Develop your ideal school library environment and services has information about what we can do, how we can work with you, and how to get in touch with us.

By Miriam Tuohy

Miriam is the Senior Specialist (School Library Development) for Services to Schools.

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Anne Williams April 3rd at 1:11PM

Thanks so much, Miriam.
This will be so useful to us as well start to consider ideas for our school rebuild- Ashburton College. I will be emailing National Library for support with the process.