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Design delivers new media messages for schools

K-12 Schools

Design delivers new media messages for schools

Media centers are no longer physically confined to one room.

By John Caulfield, Senior Editor | March 8, 2022
Media Center in Hermantown (Minn.) high school. images: Wold Architects & Engineers
A new high school in Hermantown, Minn., revolves around its media center whose design encourages collaboration and learning throughout the building. Images: Wold Architects & Engineers

The evolution of libraries for elementary and secondary schools has seen these spaces emerge as media centers of learning and collaboration for their students. However, library spaces, as they’ve been configured traditionally, don’t always lend themselves readily to that kind of transformation.

“The flaw of outdated space is that the design of the media center may not reflect or support” the current learning experience, states Wold Architects and Engineers, the Minnesota-based firm, in a recent white paper titled “From data retrieval to data creation: trends and opportunities for modern media centers.”

That white paper positions media—“the system and organization through which information is spread to a large number of people”—at the heart of a school’s learning. “No other space in a school is better situated to impact all learners and spark innovation,” the white paper states.


Media Center design needs to accommodate different spaces
New Media Centers are being designed to accommodate different spatial options and educational activities.

The flexible design of modern media centers can accommodate both personalized and project-based learning, different spatial options, as well as information access through a variety of technologies. Spaces can be “zoned” for both private study and communal student interaction. Media Centers “are less about retrieval” and more about “access and inclusion for any type of information for communication,” says Vaughn Dierks, AIA, LEED AP, a Partner with Wold and one of the white paper’s coauthors.


High-speed book storage at Hermantown (Minn.) high school
Hermantown High School in Minnesota uses a space-saving high-speed book storage system (above). IT and Media specialists are available to help students with their information access (below).

Media help desk at Hermantown (Minn.) high school


Dierks cites as examples several recent media center projects his firm has been engaged in. For a new high school for Hermantown Community Schools in Minnesota, Wold created a “deconstructed” media center called Digital Commons, which has become the school’s hub. Bookshelves were scaled back and books placed in high-density storage that takes up a fraction of the shelf space. Students reserve book online and are supported by IT and Media specialists who are located at help desk/information stations. The entire media center is open space surrounded by classrooms and labs.

The Media Center at Centerview Elementary School opens to an adjacent cafeteria.
The Media Center at Centerview Elementary School opens to an adjacent cafeteria and common area.

At Centerview Elementary School in Spring Lake Park, Minn., students can self-checkout books that are distributed to areas near clusters for classrooms. The Media Center opens to an adjacent cafeteria, with learning “stairs” and performance space as central elements.

The “living room” at Prairie View PK-8 school.
The space between the media center and cafeteria at Prairie View PK-8 school is known as “The Living Room.”

The Media Center for the Prairie View PK-8 school for Independent School District #728 in Otsego, Minn., includes collaborative spaces adjacent and open to the cafeteria. The in-between space has come to be known as “The Living Room” and is accessible to the school’s community. Secure spaces for books and technology are behind an operable glass wall.

Books are dispersed throughout Idalia PK-12 in Colorado
Books are dispersed nearer to classrooms at Idalia (Colo.) PK-12.

In Idalia, Colo., the Idalia PK-12 has dispersed previously centralized books and other resources to spaces adjacent to classrooms that support different grade levels.

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