One built a whiteboard tabletop out of shower board. Another painted a wall to create an easy green screen. Librarians dream up ingenious ways to save money and get creative in their libraries, and they’re more than willing to share ideas. You, too, can be part of this thrifty crowdsourced design movement, inspired in part by Jennifer LaGarde and Mark Samberg, who hosted the presentation “MacGyver Librarianship: The Art of Doing More with Less” (#macgyverlibrarianship) at the NCTIES ed tech conference in March in Raleigh, NC. After attending, I was inspired to transform my school library with a little help from our school’s Interior Design II class.
the power of paint
Our library had institution white walls, so we decided to paint our drop ceilings to pull in more color. The design class contacted our county’s paint department and discovered that it had lots of white that it would tint and donate to our remodel for free. The class then worked with us to create a color palette and vision for the library that would fit with our youthful clients. Using donorschoose.org, we started a drive to add more fun elements to the library. Within weeks, the project was fully funded, with $1,189 dollars. We used that to buy pillows, bean bag chairs, and rugs. Employing leftover donated paint, we jazzed up our old card catalog stand and used it to store maker space supplies. TOTAL SPENT: $0
A Circ desk that rules
For a fun focal point, we tiled our circulation desk with rulers we had transformed with our donated paint. We ordered the rulers through our Ingles Tools for Schools program and were able to get more than 500 of them for free. For this project, we bought paint brushes and construction adhesive to glue the rulers to the old desk. TOTAL SPENT: $25
The quickest update was spray-painting four of our dull gray library carts. We chose Valspar’s Golden Maize and Nautical to add a splash of color. Each cart needed between two and three cans of paint at four to five dollars per can.TOTAL SPENT: $56
fun with fabric
Our biggest expense was purchasing fabric to reupholster our dated furniture. The wood frames were sanded, primed, and painted gray by our carpentry and interior design class. Our library assistant is also a master tailor, and he reupholstered all five fabric chairs and four couches with updated fabrics in our new color palette.
Our design class enlivened our five end tables by painting them gray and using extra copies of past school yearbooks to collage the tops. We covered them with a thick layer of Mod Podge, an all-in-one glue sealer and finish used for decoupage, to protect the photos. We purchased sandpaper sponges ($10.97), primer ($19.98), Mod Podge ($19.98), and fabric ($374.19). The local fabric and craft stores also gave us a school discount! TOTAL SPENT: $425.12
name that masterpiece
Lastly, the interior design class freshened up our wooden tables with the same gray paint as the chairs, and we painted the tabletops with a tinted oil-based paint that was donated by the paint department. To make our space more flexible, our janitor gave us casters from broken
computer chairs that we attached to the bottoms of the table legs. We bought additional casters from the hardware store for $100 and added the wheels to all the tables in the library. Now it’s a breeze to change the space for different events happening in the library. We also painted our plain wooden bookshelves with blue chalkboard paint ($25.96). Our Art II students painted wooden computer chairs with their renditions of famous works of art as a final project for free.The recreated imagery from the “Water Lilies” series by Claude Monet and The Scream by Edvard Munch (above) as well as The Creation of Adam by Michelangelo and Still Life with Parrot and Fruit by Frida Kahlo (right).
TOTAL SPENT: $125.96
Katie Darty is a librarian at North Buncombe High School in Weaverville, NC. She transformed her library with the help of fellow librarian Cindy Mackiernan, assistant Tony Sykes, and interior design teacher Stephanie Griffin. She lives in Asheville, NC, with her husband, Josh, and their daughter, Charlie. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow her library on Twitter.