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School Library Design: Renovation

Library Renovation

Library renovations involve multiple parties at the school, district and city level that are often not in synch. The librarian role will be to make sure the vision is consistent with current library design principles.

Before any meetings at the school level with representatives from the School Construction Authority (SCA) and/or contractors, review the infrastructure page of the NYC School Librarian Guidebook and contact Mellissa Jacobs, director NYC School Library System, to schedule a walkthrough. 

Construction: Renovations and Upgrades

School Construction Authority

The School Construction Authority (SCA) was established by the New York State Legislature in December 1988 to build new public schools and manage the design, construction and renovation of capital projects in New York City's more than 1,200 public school buildings. The SCA usually handles all projects of $100,000 or more.

The Education Construction Fund (ECF) promotes housing, retail, or other compatible economic development projects along with new school construction on City properties.

Resolution A Funding

Resolution A (Reso A) projects are school-specific capital improvement or enhancement projects that are funded by individual grants from the Borough Presidents or members of the New York City Council. These projects are very important to the school community because they help the Department of Education to enhance school facilities. Once a Borough President or City Council Member decides to designate a grant, the School Construction Authority (SCA) is responsible for scoping out the project and overseeing the design and construction. 

Resolution-A monies are awarded through Borough Presidents offices or NYC Council Members. You will need to submit a list of each specific request for the library upgrade, along with the approximate cost for these upgrades.

City council members and borough presidents have discretionary funds that principals can apply for to improve their schools. Many NYC school libraries have benefited from these monies. Library renovations from infrastructure to paint, technology improvement and new furniture top the list of items requested most. To apply for City Council Discretionary Funds school principals should contact the district council member. A portion of the capital funds from the borough presidents’ offices may be used for a one-time large purchase of library materials.

Please check with your borough president.

Contact your City Council Representative

Resolution A ("Reso A") Capital Funds Fiscal Year 2023 Brochure

Office of Space and Facilities

Reso A Tips

While Reso A applications become available in January, it's a good idea to start contacting your representatives early in the school year. Reso A funding is made by folks who serve our communities as elected officials.  It's useful to take time to research the potential grantor's background. 

  1. In October make an appointment with your principal to go visit the official you will be approaching for the grant. An in-person meeting will give the potential grantor a chance to ask you questions and talk about his or her vision.  This will go a long way in distinguishing your application from a pile. 
  2. Be sure to follow up with a thank you note after the meeting.
  3. Invite the official to your school to see what you have in mind. A breakfast meeting in the library works well. Have charming, articulate students present their vision for how an improved library would create a place for learning and positive social interaction.
  4. You may also call to inquire as to who is the official’s education liaison. You may have better luck contacting that person who could get you an audience with the official.
  5. If your grant application is rejected, follow up as soon as you receive the rejection and ask if you can resubmit.  Also ask if there are areas that could be modified to improve the likelihood of you getting the grant.
  6. You can e-mail your questions to

Library Design Phases

In order for a renovation to be successful it is imperative that the librarian and a representative from the Office of Library Services attend all meetings or is informed of progress at each phase of development (contact director Mellissa Jacobs, for Office of Library Services representation).  

It is much easier to get the design elements correct at the beginning than to try to make corrections after construction has begun. These consultations are free of charge. Each phase of the project will require authorization from SCA's Office of Capital Planning before proceeding. 

Scope Phase - The initial "kick-off" meeting with architects, building staff, School Construction Authority (SCA) personnel, Department of School Facilities (DSF) personnel, borough space planners and other interested parties provides an overview of the process and discusses the project components. The designer's project related findings and recommendations are documented and a summary report issued.

Design Phase - Designers prepare construction drawings and specifications for Bid and Award. Mechanical, electrical and plumbing engineers or other design professionals are brought into the discussion. This is when revisions are made. Careful scrutiny of all elements is crucial. You will be advised if any items in the original Scope of Work need revision or are disallowed. 

Bid/Award Phase - Contractors bid on the project and a decision is made regarding the contract award.

Construction Phase - Once this phase begins the approved construction drawings and technical specifications may not be altered. Necessary permits are obtained before construction can begin.

Sample Questions to Ask When Building or Remodeling a Middle School Library

  • Should we replace the flooring with carpet or vinyl?
  • How many doors does the library need?
  • How do we make the library feel inviting?
  • Do we need a quiet study area?
  • What type of shelving should we use for the graphic novel collection?
  • Should library signage also be in braille?
  • Does the library need its own storage area?
  • Do we need round or square or oblong tables or some of each? Where should these be placed? How many do we need?
  • Where do we put the popular novels?
  • How big should the student and faculty production lab be, and where do we want it, in conjunction with the main library?
  • Will we allow video gaming in the library? If so, should we designate specific computers for research and others for gaming purposes?
  • Can we tint the outside window glass, so that there is less glare in the library?
  • How many full classes can this library accommodate?
  • How much and what type of space do we need for small group work?

- Rebecca P. Butler, School Libraries 3.0: Principles and Practices for the Digital Age

Transforming into a Learning Commons

Before and After Photos of IS 278 in Brooklyn

Robin Sue Ward School for Exceptional Children


Before and After Photos of Boys and Girls High School in Brooklyn

3 photos of school libraries in states of demolition.

Museum at Boys and Girls High School in Brooklyn.

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