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NYC School Librarian Guidebook: Facilities

Resources to examine our inherent bias, promote personal awareness, and help us build collections for our students that reflect themselves and the world around them.


School libraries are dynamic learning environments with flexible space for simultaneous activities (whole group, small groups, individuals) and print and technology resources that encourage inquiry. The location of the library in a school should allow for equitable access and foster collaboration between librarian and teachers.


Library Layout and Essential Areas

Elements of a Learning Commons

Furniture and Equipment


  • Tables
  • Chairs
  • Shelving for books, AV, software, equipment, laptop carts, magazines, paperbacks


Supplies must be kept in stock to complete the processing of materials, accommodate student use of computers and printers, and keep the library operating smoothly.

The following are essential supplies:

  • Packing tape
  • Dummy barcodes
  • Call number labels
  • Toner for laser printers
  • Paper for printer, copy machine
  • Display items (background paper, colored paper, display racks, bulletin board supplies)
  • Bookends
  • Plexi sign holders

The circulation desk is the point of service and the first piece of furniture students see upon entering the library. It should be attractive as well as functional.

Things to Consider:

  • Components
    • Computer unit
    • Cabinet unit
    • Open Shelf unit
    • Book Return unit (with depressible book truck beneath)
    • Drawer unit
    • Kneespace unit
    • Corner unit
  • Counter Height
    • Lower for elementary and higher for secondary schools
    • Multiple heights
  • Cord Containment
  • Storage

Standard sloping book trucks are used for reshelving books. They come in metal or wood in a variety of styles. We recommend:

  • at least two (one for fiction/one for nonfiction)
  • double-sided

Depressible book trucks or book return carts are used beneath the Book Drop unit of the circulation desk.


Many high school libraries install security systems to prevent loss of books. All security systems involve the installation of a device in the books as well as a checkout machine to activate and de-activate the device and detection gates for each entrance and exit. After the initial expense of purchasing the security system and installing the device in every book, the system can be maintained by ordering the security device to be installed as a part of the purchasing/processing from a vendor. 

Renovations and 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 borough president.

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.

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