Sprucing Up My School Library for Less than $600

Taking inspiration from the thrifty library design hashtag #macgyverlibrarianship, a high school librarian freshened up her space on a tight budget. Check out what she did and how much she spent.
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

Katie_pic_1 Katy_pic_2Our 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

katy_pic_4 katy_pic_3For 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


library carts 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

darty_pic_5katy_chairsOur 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 katy_end tablesnew 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

katy_pic_6 art chairs_monet, munchLastly, 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 art chairs_michelangel, kahlodifferent 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  
  darty_head_shotKatie 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 anna.darty@bcsemail.org, or follow her library on Twitter.
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Hello! I'm curious where you got the blue and cream-colored rug pictured in the Fun With Fabric section of your post. I am in search of a good area rug to place in our teen space after renovations.

Posted : Feb 29, 2016 02:36

Katie Darty

Laura, At that time, it was available through Amazon.com and we purchased it using Donorschoose.org. Not sure what the price is now or if it is still available. I LOVE that rug but it does shed like crazy.

Posted : Feb 29, 2016 02:36

Sydney Schatz

Love this!!! What a great idea and the kids did an awesome job!

Posted : Feb 18, 2016 12:36

Cindy Dinneen

Amazing transformation! I appreciate your creativity. I'm wondering if your tables where solid wood or did they have a formica top? I'm interested in painting my Formica topped tables and was concerned about what type of paint to use.

Posted : Feb 03, 2016 01:58

Shelia Bickle

Hello! I wanted to share with you that you can paint Formica. I'm the weird one in my circle that has painted her formica countertops (in my own kitchen at home) in two different houses. I used a paint that was designed to be on concrete floors. When I was talking to the guy in the paint store, we both decided that if the paint was designed for something that busy and hardworking, it would likely be good for my counters. I would not be able to cut on them, and had to be careful to not put hot cookware straight on it. AND I did a faux granite finish. Sounds fancy, but in reality it was so very easy. You need a base color and 2 other accent colors. (I did a high gloss black, medium gray and light gray.) You roll on your base color, and let it dry until tacky. Apply color #2 with a sponge randomly, and let dry until tacky. Apply color #3 with a sponge randomly, and let dry until tacky. ASSESS. If you like it, let it dry. IF you want to mute the color, Apply color #1 with a sponge randomly. Let dry and cure before use. You can then seal with a spray polyurethane sealant, if you want. I had friends over to a painting party to do one counter top. So this is definitely something that students can help with! (And it would go fairly fast with lots of helpers! Good luck!

Posted : Feb 03, 2016 01:58

Colette Eason

One pint of Valspar, or Rustoleum will cover 10 times that of a spray can, and much better coverage as well. I also use the throw away sponge brushes from the dollar store, much cheaper, and goes much farther. Great job! love the student painted chairs.

Posted : Feb 03, 2016 01:44

Robert Frisby

Congratulations, Katie! The "New" Library environment contains welcoming conditions and needs to be an attractive place that people want to enter and use. It should also encourage interactions that enable people to brainstorm and work together. Well done.

Posted : Feb 02, 2016 09:19

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