Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Renovation I: the wall

Most school libraries don't have spare walls hanging about, because you tend to put shelving and books on them. Very practical.

Then you get asked to clear a wall of books (3 bays, a total of 15 shelves) for the opportunity of an interactive whiteboard going there. It's a wall with that potential for all sorts of reasons, including its location, lighting and so forth.

OK. Big job to clear the wall of books (the surrounding shelves are rather more full than they were).

Then we looked at the wall. Very very very boring mid-toned brick. Undistinguished. Uninteresting.

Let's paint it, before the whiteboard comes, we said. What colour? A dark one. Black? No, what about purple???

Deep purple.

Done. Two coats, straight onto the brick (which we cleaned first) of a good quality low sheen paint.

I'd been to a conference earlier this year and in Ross Todd's presentation I saw some photos of library renovations done by the Robin Hood Foundation, as part of its L!brary Initiative (the foundation has all sorts of programs devoted to alleviating poverty). One library stuck in my head - PS 16 on Staten Island. Pictures here - and it's a slideshow of pics, so stay with it for a minute to see the various views. There's another article here, with pictures of several different schools. Many of the ideas were simply wonderful, but I couldn't see how they were achievable within our budget and time constraints.

But we weren't going to leave the wall purple and plain. So PS 16 (its design by architectural firm 1100 Architects - one of the links above leads to their site) was an inspiration.

We used a single font, photocopied transparencies of words and an overhead projector - low tech, but it worked. We traced the words using chalk, then painted them with folk art paints (I bought pretty much every colour purple, although you may be surprised if you see the ones that read green or burgundy on this wall). Some words are higher contrast with the background purple, others deliberately low contrast - you have to get close to the wall to see every word on it.

Tracing and painting was fitted in to spare slots of time, or the odd period when the library was quiet, so it's taken a while. The kids at school have been great - nobody rubbed off a chalk tracing, and a number have said how much they like it (it's cool, mad and inspiring, among other things).

Then the blow fell. No interactive whiteboard on this wall, at least for this year.

We said assorted naughty words, as you do, then set to painting more text on the wall - we'd been avoiding the centre, since this would have been obscured by the whiteboard. And may in the future.

But for now, whiteboard or not, we've got a new feature that the kids like, and that spruces up the library with graphic impact and a bunch of unmissable words expressing ideas about what a library is for and will let you do and be. We may look for some way of lighting it more directly, but that's another project. For now, here's a picture, taken with a word or two still to paint. It's come up pretty well...

We are having the white powerpoint replaced by a dark one, so it doesn't stand out. And maybe we will go back and paint the skirting board.

The art teacher who came by the other day and saw it went away talking about trying this idea in her art room, using an art vocabulary.  And Home Ec. has plans to borrow it for their area, too.

We haven't yet done the 'painted by' section we're putting on the top right, but painters included library staff, students, and a couple of others including (we insisted) our lovely cleaner - we'll all sign it and date it.

Costs: 4 litre tin of paint, about a dozen assorted purple folk art paints, plastic palettes, a couple of decent brushes capable of doing smooth edges, transparencies, photocopier access etc.

Coming soon: pictures of Renovation II that we were working on yesterday, and to which yesterday's clue colour referred.

Do leave a comment if you think you might use this idea in your library.


Anonymous said...

Wow the wall looks fantastic! What a great idea and just so simple. Very professional. I am not sure what you use the area for but I could see it being very inviting as a reading spot.

Karen and James said...

It looks fantastic!! Can we hire you to makeover our library?

Anonymous said...

Well done on such a brilliant concept and for sharing it with all of us.

cathyinoz said...

Looks great! The graphics look very professionally done (hard to get the lines straight?) congrats

Ruth Buchanan said...

Thank you for the lovely feedback. It wasn't too hard to get the lines straight because of the brickwork - although bricks/grout posed their own challenges.

Please do follow the links to see the origin of this idea.

We're still making over this library, so we're not available to fangdoodle with anyone else's (but we do appreciate the compliment!).

alison said...

What a fabulous concept for a library! I want one! Thanks for sharing.

Cyber Ann said...

The direct link in the post was no longer working, but I found the inspiration project at: http://www.1100architect.com/

I think I like your purple walls best! Glad that I've found your blog.