November 17, 2017

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Locke Jetspace: L.A. School “Library of the Future”

The space s futuristic and minimalist, with movable seating so that kids can discuss and collaborate.

The renovated library space at Locke High School in Los Angeles is futuristic and minimalist, with movable seating so that kids can discuss and collaborate. All images provided by NRBLB.

A spacious 3,000-square-foot student area tagged “Locke Jetspace,” the former school library at the Alain LeRoy Locke College Preparatory Academy (Locke HS) in Los Angeles, CA, has been renovated by the L.A. design collective No Right Brain Left Behind (NRBLB) and national charter school system Green Dot Public Schools (GDPS), which took over the high school in 2008.

The former library space has been designed with the purpose of redefining the way students can learn, says Viktor Venson, founder of NRBLB, who won a $100,000 LA2050 grant, a city-improvement grant, with GDPS back in May 2013.

Hexagonal tower book shelves

Books are layered in hexagonal tower book shelves.

“We wanted to see what the future of the library would look like in 2050… how [it] could energize the rest of the school,” he shares in an August 2014 Fast Company article.

Jetspace has been renovated by NRBLB with a 21st-century lens. It’s open, minimalist, and airy. Books are layered in hexagonal book towers, with more [towers] to be added in the future, according to Douglas Weston, director of development of GDPS. Instead of tables, the room has casual, mobile seating that lends itself to students gathering together easily to discuss and collaborate. Also to be added? About 100 Chromebooks, says Venson, which students can borrow and use to access digital resources, and GDPS hopes to fund through a Google grant it had submitted in late September.

“The goal was to make it into a space that could be used [by students],” states Weston.

The space was furnished by in kind donations from Allsteel and the rest of the furniture was designed and made by NRBLB at cost. A collection of architects and design firms donated their hours, including Chicago-based The Third Teacher+ and L.A.-based Woodsmithe and Kellie Patry. Working together, they were able to “build a space for very little,” says Weston.

The "before" photo of Locke High School's library.

The “before” photo of Locke High School’s library.

However, in early October, Venson said the modern new space is being used at “less than 20 percent capacity.” Locke Jetspace opened this past spring, but the center needs a librarian to organize and run it—and the money to fund that position.

Not enough funding is a familiar tune with school librarians and. Locke HS lies in Los Angeles’ Watts neighborhood and is made up of four academies serving nearly 2,000 students from grades 9−12. Jetspace will serve the entire campus, where nearly 80 percent of students fall below the poverty line, says Weston.

When GDPS took over Locke HS, the library was filled with books, but most were out-of-date, says Weston. The area was often closed to students, only opened for professional development and community meetings.

"After" the renovation.

“After” the renovation.

Today, the doors aren’t closed, but the space lacks a certified school librarian—or what Weston refers to as “a curator, someone with a background in technology who will help coordinate projects and other programs” and check out books, which the students can’t do right now.

The GDPS director notes that an interim curator is starting in about a week, and while there is funding for the first year, the charter school is raising funds to hire a curator for an additional year.

“…it’s still a work in progress,” states Venson.

Watch a NRBLB video of Locke JetSpace below:

Lauren Barack About Lauren Barack

School Library Journal contributing editor Lauren Barack writes about the connection between media and education, business, and technology. A recipient of the Loeb Award for online journalism, she can be found at www.laurenbarack.com.

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Comments

  1. Richard Moore says:

    >>>> However, in early October, Venson said the modern new space is being used at “less than 20 percent capacity.” Locke Jetspace opened this past spring, but the center needs a librarian to organize and run it—and the money to fund that position.

    What comment could possibly be made? The kids were being deprived of a full functioning staffed library before and that’s still the case today. In the part of town that needs it the most. Green Dot is a fraud, LAUSD is a joke, and the kids pay the price. And you do PR for the companies that helped it not happen.

    • Carolyn Sun Carolyn Sun says:

      Richard, your feelings and frustration appear to mirror what many feel about LAUSD (among other districts), charter schools, and the fact that many schools are completely leaving out school librarians to support students with information literacy-students do get the short end of the stick. In this specific story, Locke H.S. had a newly renovated library space, and the school and NRBLB were effective at getting the grant, yet the library was not used to even half of its capacity following its renovation-and it was without a librarian. In addition, this article calls attention to the fact that “The GDPS director notes that an interim curator is starting in about a week, and while there is funding for the first year, the charter school is raising funds to hire a curator for an additional year.” So, according to the director of Green Dot, there is someone, a curator, presently running the library now. Hopefully, the students of Locke are getting the library services they need. Please tune in for updates down the road.

  2. I’m sorry but I think it looks cold and unwelcoming. I don’t think it is the library of the future and I certainly don’t think it should be called a library now. Why not call it a collaborative hub? It looked like a great space (albeit cold) until I had to think of it as a library.

    • Carolyn Sun Carolyn Sun says:

      Interesting that it looked like a great (cold) space until you had to think of it as a library. Why do you think that is?

  3. Where is the input from a certified media specialist/teacher librarian?

    • Viktor Venson says:

      Hi Frances – we worked with numerous teachers, students, and admin at Locke for the initial discovery and feedback sessions. We also had The Third Teacher+/Cannon Design team, who has a strong track record in educational design and architecture, lead the initial design and strategy sessions that informed the final outcome. However, as we mention, this is Phase 1, as we know that we need to see the community use the space and learn from that, before we complete the ‘canvas’ so to say.