The Exploration Center at Shelburne Community School creates a new vision for what "libraries" are intended to be in the 21st Century. This $750k renovation project was part of a larger $9M renovation of two classroom wings, re-roofing and window replacement project. The idea is that the library is not just a space that houses books. It is a place to explore, create, read, listen to stories, collaborate with others, study individually or with a group and give presentations. The decision was made to change the name of the space from the "Library" to become "The Exploration Center" for this reason.
Flexibility of the library was paramount. An important factor in the design was the ability for the Exploration Center to be used by the community for a variety of uses, from local artists and "makers" to community meetings, presentations and events. While there are individual spaces where students can study alone or in a small group, there is opportunity for larger groups to gather. We integrated a large projection screen facing out to the center of the library so that groups of over 100 people could gather and listen to a speaker give a presentation or skype-in on the screen. While there are permanently constructed bookshelves, there are a number of mobile bookshelves so that when larger groups want to gather, these bookshelves can be moved easily to another area.
The "Story Portal", designed to feel like you were entering a space capsule or underwater submarine, is a space to help the younger students focus their attention on the instructor/reader, but also feels "open" to the rest of the library. The idea is to get kids excited about learning, and reading and giving the "library" a prominent place and stature in the school. It sits at the heart or hub of the school and acts as a grounding central point for all activity and learning through the school.
We also created a maker lab or "Flex Lab" with counters with an abundance of storage and electrical outlets, just adjacent to a classroom type space and design-center (houses 4 high-powered computers). The idea is that these three spaces work together, allowing students/teachers to embrace the "maker movement", and integrate high-tech Project Based Learning into the curriculum.
Owner Champlain Valley School District
SQ. FT. 4,800
Photographer Roberto Fitzgerald, Associate AIA (Project Manager)