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The North Stafford H.S. Library Embraces Maker Trend

Aug. 23, 2018

Stantec’s renovation of the North Stafford High School library engages students with a maker space and more.

There is a lot to be said about the maker culture and the creativity that it fosters. But perhaps one of the most valuable outcomes that have resulted from this trend is the level of engagement maker spaces offer to people who utilize them.

For North Stafford High School in Stafford, Virginia, engaging students with its previously neglected library was among the main goals of a recent renovation led by Stantec. Including a maker space where students can experiment and explore new ideas was one of the ways the client’s goals were accomplished.

Photography by Tom Holdsworth

“Libraries have latched onto this [maker] trend as a way to really engage the community,” said Gwen Morgan, associate, senior interior design at Stantec. “In education, for example, all this access to information through technology starts to drive the conversation about what do we want our students to learn if facts and figures are so readily available? We see the focus on collaboration, on inventing, on innovation, on working together, and that all of these factors have become more highly valued as educational outcomes for students. The makerspace has really provided a good setting to develop those skills.”

To that end, the design team at Stantec involved students, faculty, and administrators in an interactive planning and design process to help envision a library that fit a robust program using limited existing space, while also being adaptable and flexible for today’s and tomorrow’s students. Stantec even led tours of two higher education libraries and surveyed both students and teachers to help establish a clear direction for the new library.

Photography by Tom Holdsworth

One of the higher education libraries they visited included a maker space, which excited the students who attended the tour, according to Kyle Hopkins, project manager at Stantec. “The students who were part of that were really excited about going into this space and understanding what they could do there. It’s really a kind of studio where they can explore, handle, create, and test things out […] and so we knew from the tour that the maker space is a resource that we definitely wanted to incorporate into the project itself,” he said.

Hopkins noted that rather than simply trying to fill a classroom with tools and industrial tables, the design team wanted to the space to be creative and playful for students. As such, Stantec made several design decisions to encourage inspiration, such as:

  • Removing the drop ceiling, which “totally kills creativity,” Hopkins said, and exposing the ductwork
  • Hanging a thin, playful rectangular LED pendant on a dimmer
  • Adding layers of color through metallic stools, shades of blue paint on the walls, and two-toned casework
  • Featuring ample writable wall surfaces
  • Incorporating a recessed nook for a touchscreen TV that connects to the Internet for research
Photography by Tom Holdsworth

To encourage students to use the space as intended, the design team integrated as much open storage as possible. “One of the things we discovered and were told when doing this project is that students use things that they can see,” Hopkins recalled. “If they don’t see tools—tools are put away in a box and hidden, and the same with materials—they’re just not going to use them.” By introducing features such as open shelving, pegboards and storage cubbies where tools, materials and projects could be stored while remaining highly visible, students have immediate access to what they need to invent and be innovative.

As part of the overall strategy to encourage more students to utilize the library, the Stantec design team also created a more inviting entry by replacing visual barricades, such as doors and cinderblock walls, with a glass storefront and roll-up entry portal. They also added spaces for gaming, group instruction, meetings, and individual study. To support different activities within the space, designers selected a variety of tables, chairs, and shelving (most of them on wheels), made sure access to power was abundant, included writable and projectable walls, and delivered easy technology access. The most visually stunning features of the new library are technology-rich collaboration rooms of various sizes branded with translucent graphics of famous historical figures who were selected by students in a school-wide vote.

Photography by Tom Holdsworth

In the end, the numbers prove the renovation has made a measurable impact on student traffic within the space.  After the design, the library at North Stafford High School saw a 61 percent increase in class visits and a 43 percent increase in walk-ins. With those scores, it’s clear this is one library design that’s making the grade.

You've seen a maker space. Now meet the makers.

About the Author

Robert Nieminen | Chief Content Director

Robert Nieminen is the Chief Content Director of Architectural Products, BUILDINGS and i+s, sister publications of Smart Buildings Technology. He is an award-winning writer with more than 20 years of experience reporting on the architecture and design industry.

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