Check it out!

Taking my anticipation and motivation to the next level, I spent my weekend painting and varnishing some trimmings to finish off Stage 1 of my library-renovation-on-a-shoestring. Up until now, I had not spent any money. My budget for 2008 is exhausted, so if I can’t get this amount approved next year, I guess I’ll consider it a donation to the school, but I’m sure I’ll have a dedicated “renovations” dissection in my 2009 budget.

Firstly, I need to show you what a few Kaisercraft MDF (wooden) letters from Spotlight, a 250 ml jar of burgundy Derivan “Matisse” paint @ $11.99, polymer matt varnish ($12.99) and a tube of wood glue can do for the circulation desk I worked on last week. (By the way, large MDF letters were $3.99 each, smaller ones were $1.49 each.)

I chose the burgundy colour as we have bright green fraying carpet, and there’s always a possibility that some future carpet will turn out to be vibrant blue, and at least then it’ll be reminiscent of our school uniform colours. In a flash of brilliance, I painted the previous teacher-librarian’s terracotta pot to match the lettering. The pot used to hold an indoor aloe vera plant – but I’d brought the pot home after I managed to kill it off through neglect. (I had intended to repot it with some of my own aloe veras, which do extremely well in my garden.)

While I had the counter tilted over today, I suddenly realised that I could use more burgundy on its wooden base! Here’s the final result:
Circulation finished
Well, it beats spelling out something obvious, like “Circulation desk”!

Total cost of this renovation: $60.30.

Remember when it looked like this?
circulation reno

Next up, I’ve been working on replacing the dusty, fading, teacher-made paper frieze, illustrating the children’s picture book, “Fox”, that dominates the area over the photocopier, a storeroom and my offce door. Since the frieze was specially commissioned by the previous TL to fit an unusually-shaped strip of bare wooden panelling, it’s not ever been replaced by other annual Book Week artwork. (I checked tonight: “Fox”, by Margaret Wild & Ron Brooks, was the CBCA Picture Book of the Year way back in 2001. Definitely time for a change.)

I’ll reveal the details of the final stage of this project tomorrow, but here are the first few stages:
Wall - mural and copier
I can’t believe the library was plastered with so many random bits of paper…!

Wall - mural of Fox
Dusty old “Fox” mural…

Wall - mural gone
A blank slate…

Burgundy paint: it’s claimed to be waterproof, flexible and lightfast – and the brush washes out in water. The paint also requires no undercoat, and dries to a satin finish.

And the promised preview of tomorrow’s entry:
Preview: The final result! More details here!

Note that, after seeing the sequence online, I realised at the last minute that the little photo frame (on the right) could be painted burgundy, too, so I did that today. And that we had other pencil holders, already covered in burgundy hessian, so why was I putting up with one covered in white and 70s print “Contact” adhesive? An easy swap.

Shoestrings vs pursestrings

At this time of year, most school library budgets have reached rock bottom. But let’s see how much renovating I can do before I submit a proposal for actual funds to keep transforming the library environment.

Last week, on the Monday, I spent a few minutes racing around the library with a digital camera. Although I’d previously been quite happy with our very colourful, but often unruly, library environment, aiming a camera at it, inside and out, really showed up the library’s numerous inadequacies, many of which could no doubt be rectified quite quickly. My “Spidey senses” sharpened due to a recent professional development day focusing on improving design and functionality in the library, I was eager to get started.

Using the principles of Kevin Hennah‘s “Transforming Your Library on a Shoestring Budget” presentation of two weeks ago, my clerical assistant, Louise, and I spent part of last Tuesday removing every random piece of dusty, homemade, laminated and unlaminated signage, plus many deteriorating old commercial examples, from the walls and windows.

One day, one of us will have to take to all the stale tape and Blu-Tack marks that remain. Hopefully. But it’s already a huge improvement!

Total cost of that renovation: Nil.
Before: The circulation desk – and a mess of exposed paper and wires.

circulation reno
After: The new “old” circulation desk – a work in progress.

Today (oops, yesterday already!), my clerical assistant was back and, together with a parent helper, we pulled out an existing, old, wood-veneered, circulation desk – from its previous position along a partition wall (with its ugly open shelves on public display, badly overloaded with paper and junk – stuff which no library patron ever needs to see). We turned the unit around 180 degrees, to show its plain, clean front, and hid the computer’s hard drive unit under the counter top.

Behind desk - old
Before: The old grey circulation desk – a mess.

Behind desk
After: The new “old” circulation desk – a work in progress.

We then dragged the adjustable, grey, 80s, ergonomic table, which has supported the library’s main OASIS computer for many years, to the other end of our small bank of networked computers. We used that to replace five small, wobbly student desks (of the 70s) that had been added, over recent years, a few at a time, as the library acquired extra network computers from around the school – usually cast-offs after a computer roll-out. At the same time, we removed one non-functional computer from the network.
Before: The bank of computers – note gaping crevice between carrels.

computers reno
After: The relocated ergonomic grey desk, formerly our circulation desk.

Not long after, my next class – of Stage 3 students – came into the library. “Wow!” they exclaimed, admiring our hasty transformation, “More computers!”


Well, what do you know? Reducing the spaces between the desks, removing one faulty computer, and switching to one big table instead of five littler ones, made it look like we had more computers, not less! Unfortunately, I only just realised that none of my “Before” photos properly showcase the five old school desks which held up four of our network computers and a printer. You can see one in the foreground of the “Before” shot.

By the way, I’ve since tweaked the new ergonomics somewhat:
Ergonomic reno
Above: Making a table a little more ergonomic. And comfortable.

Total cost of this renovation: Nil.

Please stay tuned! There’s so much more work to be done. You know, this would make a great TV show. We could call it… “Renovation Rescue”. (Nah, I think that’s been taken.)

And thank you again Kevin!