Swain Library: Redesigned FOR students BY students using Google SketchUp

About a month ago, I launched a project with my geometry class to redesign our school library.  In trying to keep this project as authentic as possible, Sarah Ludwig, our school’s Academic Coordinator/ Librarian presented the library’s needs gleaned from a student/ faculty survey and from her own observations. I also asked our school’s Facilities Director, Jim Hunter, come to class to present the original architectural drawings of the building. He was very excited to share those with us. We also were extremely fortunate to have Christiaan Dinkeloo, our school’s consulting architect, meet with the class several times over the course of the project.

Here is the info presented to students:

You are trying to win the architectural bid for the Swain Library redesign  project.  You must use Google Sketchup to meet the requests from the school’s librarian. 

  • Your design must include an accurate, to scale, 3D model of Swain Library. Be sure to include windows, doors, fire exits. 
  • Your library design includes room for 5000 books.
  • Your library design includes a creative, well planned space for quiet, individual study
  • Your library design includes a creative, well planned space for group study/ collaboration.
  • Your library design includes a creative space for class visits (with the potential for technology)
  • Your library design includes a creative space for reading for pleasure. 
  • There is a space for a more prominent and central display of the young adult collection.
  • Your design includes at least 2 of the following wishes.  
  • Wish list:
    • Remove all high shelving and put shelving along the walls and in low shelves (might be used to divide up space)
    • Accommodate technology everywhere – more outlets, etc.
    • A librarian station that is central, visible, and accessible to students, which allows for student/faculty conferencing
    • A second classroom that can also serve as a meeting room or technology lab
  • Your library design is adaptable and can accommodate occasional events without changing the design of the library.
  • Your design was submitted by the deadline agreed upon by the team. 

We began with a day of measuring the dimensions of the library and talking about how the symmetry of the building could make the measuring even easier.   We also calculated the number of  books (on average) that would fit on a shelf. (Our designs needed to fit 5000). We compared our actual measurements to the architectural drawing and learned about scale. What a perfect tie in to a lesson on ratio and proportion!

With only one student having prior experience with SketchUp (and with having little experience myself), we all watched videos together, helped each other and worked through all of our issues as they arose. There were many days I couldn’t get students out of the classroom at the end of the period… they were INTO it!

Mr. Dinkeloo came to class weekly to answer questions, to help students with design challenges and to show us what a presentation to potential clients actually looked like. What an amazing resource he was to our class. You added a dimension to the project that could not have otherwise been achieved. Thanks Mr. Dinkeloo! 🙂

I have to be honest, I was a little scared when we started this… was this project going to be too much for us to handle? With having little “expertise” in the room with SketchUp, would we be able to figure it all out? How much time was this all going to take? So many questions… I’m a planner, so this was a little uncomfortable for me.  I decided to just let it ride and see what happened.

Last Friday, the class presented their amazing library redesign models to me, Ms. Ludwig and Mr. Dinkeloo.

Here are some photos of their presentations:


The student’s designs were creative, thoughtful, accurate and solved many of the problems articulated in our original discussion. Mr. Dinkeloo, Ms. Ludwig and I all gave feedback to the students and the students had a chance to ask and answer questions of each other. It was a truly authentic experience  and the icing on the cake was that I got to announce today that the school has received a major gift to fund the actual redesign! Mr. Dinkeloo will begin work very soon on the project. Our class looks forward to hearing about his progress and to seeing if he uses any of our ideas!

Additional Resources:

Here’s the rubric for the project.

Click here for article in Hamden Hall Happenings

Ms. Ludwig’s notes from presentation about the Middle/ Upper School Library

Beauty and the Book: Libraries in the digital age raise the question about the place of books

School Library Redesign from the National Institute of Building Science

Google SketchUp video tutorials


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