It has long been believed that certain colors affect people psychologically and emotionally. Blues tend to have a calming effect while reds stimulate the senses. “Surprisingly, little theoretical or empirical work has been conducted to date on the influence of color on psychological functioning . . .” (Elliot & Maier, 2007,). Yet, colors and their meanings remain. Decorators and interior designers take this to heart. Why? Color does have an impact. It can make a room appear larger or smaller than it actually is. It can be manipulated to hide imperfections and enhance positive aspects of a room. Lighter colors make a room seem larger. Dark colors have the opposite affect. They can make a room seem smaller and bring down a high ceiling. Painting vertical stripes also make a low ceiling appear higher. Vertical stripes can create the illusion of a larger room by drawing the eye across.
Color can create a mood or a feeling. It has the ability to change a dreary, boring, and uninviting space into a friendly, stimulating, and exciting one. Color has the capability to transform, reshape, and renovate. “One warning—too much color can give anyone at any age an old-fashioned headache. Librarians working in an atmosphere of unrelieved intensive color may be subject to eyestrain and too much emotional stimulation” (Cohen & Cohen, 1978).
Color in the School Library
From the books on the shelves to the flooring at their feet, color surrounds students as they enter the school library. It is found in posters, signs, and walls. But is it an appealing and welcoming space? “The colors used in a school library should make it a warm, inviting place where children will want to come and actively participate” (Scargall, 1999). Young students need a place that is bright and cheery. The colors chosen for walls, carpets, and signage should reflect the excitement of childhood. Bright, bold, primary colors create a space that stimulates young children to use the library. For older students, color should reflect the transition from childhood to young adult to adulthood. Color can be infused the decorative elements in darker shades to give a more studious tone. Whichever the case may be, color can be utilized to make the school library a central place for studying and learning.
There are a myriad of ways to incorporate color into a school library. Even with a small budget, a library can still be transformed. Creating a focal point wall by painting it with a bright color can create excitement. Bulletin boards can also create enthusiasm. Using bulletin boards with colorful displays to introduce new developments in the library will generate anticipation and make students want to visit the library.
Budget conscious librarians can add color to the library by doing simple things. Throw pillows can be placed on furniture. Chair pads or coverings can brighten wooden furniture. Curtains and other wall coverings can also be used.
An overlooked space to put color is at the back of a bookshelf. Backs of bookshelves can be covered with color to create a pattern or emphasize collections or series. There are several ways to do this. Wallpaper, paint, or fade resistant paper can be used. It is an inexpensive and easy way to add color to library shelves. Adding color does not need to be expensive or difficult, just creative.
It has been known by educators that most students are visual learners. Creating charts and other displays can aid students greatly. “Right-brained students have color-sensitive brains, and color-coding solidifies their learning. Colorful videos, posters, transparencies, and diagrams are more meaningful than extensive lectures” (Brown, 2000). Numbers, sequential order, and academics are left-brained thinking. These are all prevalent in the library. Left-brained thinkers feel at home and at ease. They are able to find what they need quickly and easily. While right-brained thinkers return time and again to get the right number to find the book that they are looking for. Color-coding shelves can alleviate this problem. The color added to signs, posters, or shelves can aid right-brained students in finding what they need.
Designing or remodeling a library or any room, whether personal or job-related, can be a daunting task. Looking to other sources can facilitate the decoration or redecoration. Getting input from students can be invaluable. Students can bring imaginative and innovative ideas to décor. “Students bring an uninhibited, fresh outlook to design considerations” (Brown, 1992). Consulting students seems to be a natural step in the design or redesign of a school’s library. As an added bonus, students take ownership of the project and are able to truly call it their library.
Design vs. Program
There are dozens of libraries that one can visit to get inspiration from. Pictures abound on the Internet of ways that libraries have been decorated. Many are spectacular feats of architectural design and expertise. “Does the room make the library program, or does the library program make the room” (Coatney, 2005)? Library evaluations often focus on the program and not the library design, room, or décor. Students focus more on the collection. A beautiful library can have the best furniture, lighting, and color. It can be inviting and a wonderful place to visit. But, if it is not backed up by and equally exciting program it becomes just another room that is pretty to look at.
1. Brown, D. (2000, November). Libraries can be right-brained. Book Report, 19(3), 19. Retrieved May 2, 2009, from Library, Information Science & Technology Abstracts with Full Text database.
The article gives information on the differences between left-brained and right-brained learners. It also gives tips on how the library media center can adjust lessons to address the needs of students.
2. Brown, R. (1992, February). Students as partners in library design. School Library Journal, 28(2), 31. Retrieved April 28, 2009, from Academic Search Complete database.
This article discusses the advantages of getting students to participate in the design of the library. It also gives tips on the use of space, technology, and decorations. It is written from the point of view of a Senior Associate in an architecture and urban design firm.
3. Clark, R. (2008, October). Impact library access with bold use of color and space. Library Media Connection, 27(2), 16-18. Retrieved April 24, 2009, from Academic Search Complete database.
This article tells how to accomplish better access by making a few changes that cost a few dollars and are easy do-it-yourself projects. It includes photographs as examples.
4. Coatney, S. (2005, October). Does the room make the library program, or does the library program make the room?. Teacher Librarian, 33(1), 60. Retrieved April 28, 2009, from Library, Information Science & Technology Abstracts with Full Text database.
The article discusses the experience of the author when working in a beautifully decorated library. She also describes her experiences when visiting other libraries.
5. Cohen, A. & Cohn, E. (1978, February). Remodeling the library. School Library Journal, 24(6), 30-34. Retrieved April 28, 2009 from Academic Search Complete database.
This article gives information on how to remodel a library. It focuses information on color, lighting, flooring, and noise level reduction.
6. Elliot, A. & Maier, M. (2007). Color and psychological functioning. Psychological Science, 16(5), 250-254. Retrieved April 24, 2009 from Academic Search Complete database.
The article discusses the lack of research done with the influence of color on humans. It gives background information of previous work done in 1942. Its main focus is on the color red research done by the authors. It briefly mentions other colors.
7. Hirko, B. (1991, January). Colorizing the library. American Libraries, 22(1), 94-96. Retrieved April 24, 2009, from Academic Search Complete database.
This article talks about free access and how books binds in color aid in the location of the book. It explains that the color of the binding should also be included in the MARC tag.
8. Hurst, C. (1991, March). Rainbow reading. Teaching Pre K-8, 21(6), 81-82. Retrieved April 24, 2009, from Academic Search Complete database.
This article gives ways of adding color to the school library through the use of bulletin boards. It gives specific examples of using color throughout the year.
9. Lowe, L. & Cummings, R. (2009, Winter). Small spaces, small budget, big results: creating a user-centered learning space on a budget. Georgia Library Quarterly. Retrieved April 24, 2009, from Academic Search Complete database.
The article gives information on how to create a space within the means of a small budget. It tells to get a needs assessment first and then gives tips on some of the things that can be done, which includes adding color.
10. Scargall, H. (1999, November). Color. Library Talk, 12(5), 11. Retrieved April 24, 2009, from Academic Search Complete database.
The article gives information on color in the school library. It gives information on how different colors affect students.
11. Woodward, J. (1999, April). Countdown to a new library: a blueprint for success. (cover story). American Libraries, 30(4), 44. Retrieved April 29, 2009, from Education Research Complete database.
The article mentions some important things to keep in mind when decorating a school library. It gives information on color, floor, and furniture. At the end of the article there is a compiled list from librarians on things that may be overlooked.