How to create an inspiring school library

lee chapel literacy alice in wonderland

What makes an inspiring school library? Here we’ll explore a few ways to create a space in which pupils will WANT to spend time!

This blog has been published on the BookTrust website as a guest blog.

We were shocked to discover recently that many schools across the UK do not have a school library. Why does this matter? Because children who read for pleasure are healthier, happier and do better at school. So a library is more than a nice-to-have, it’s a necessity for every school.

As part of Cressida Cowell’s ‘Life-Changing Libraries’ project, six schools in the UK have received a fully kitted out library. Promote Your School has donated the design, print and installation of bespoke Wall Art for each school.

Now we’re sharing our tips on how your school can create an inspiring library.

Hadley Learning Community literacy wall art

Everyone is welcome

It sounds obvious, but the most important step in creating an inspiring school library is for everyone to feel welcome.

But what does this actually mean?

It means offering a wide and diverse range of books that appeal to children from all walks of life. So any child can pick up a book and see an aspirational character that looks or acts like them. It’s equally important that your library’s visual environment is diverse and inclusive too.

If you’re planning to use your walls to feature characters from well known books, make sure you showcase characters from all ethnic backgorunds, genders, abilities, subjects and interests.

Appeal to all ages

If your school library will be used by children of varying ages, it’s best to stick with a reasonably generic theme.

If you showcase books that are too young, it may exclude older kids. And if you focus on setbooks for older pupils, younger ones may feel left out.

One option is to create different age ‘zones’ within your library, or simply to showcase books that appeal to children of all ages within your school.

For Early Years, we’d suggest keeping your design very image rich. Lots of bold and vibrant colours, fun, playful pictures and characters from your little ones’ favourite children’s stories. Castles, unicorns, wizards, dinosaurs, cars, boats, robots and fairytale characters are all popular themes. But there is no limit to what can be designed, so let your imagination run wild!

Older children will appreciate a more mature approach. You might like to focus on certain literary eras or handpick popular authors and quotes that will appeal to pupils.

Many schools tend to focus their Wall Art on the common set books that form part of their curriculum for each age group. You can choose quotes, text, characters and imagery from your chosen setwork books so your Wall Art serves as a teaching aid as well as an inspirational artwork.

Thomas Arnold library wall art

What to include

When designing school library Wall Art, we tend to use a mix of resources to bring the environment to life.

It’s really important that the Wall Art feels inherent to the environment, like it’s always been there.

You could also paint additional walls, doors or radiators to complement your chosen Wall Art. Use matching furniture like reading tables, beanbags and cushions to add to the visual environment, for maximum effect.

It’s worth thinking about your longterm vision for the space. School Library Wall Art can last many years, so make sure you opt for colours, messaging and characters that won’t go out of date!

We’d suggest choosing well loved children’s books that have stood the test of time. Try to avoid focusing on fads or taking excerpts from gimmicky stories that have little literary value.

Calm spaces and SEND areas

For some children, books serve as escapism from ordinary life. Reading can transport pupils into a world where anything is possible!

So it’s helpful to set out your school library in a way that allows children to find peace and solace for reading time. In Covid times, you may also want to include cleaning stations in case children want to sanitise their hands before and after reading.

Some schools also use their library as a calm space. This is particularly effective for children with learning difficulties or special educational needs.

In this case, we’d suggest using muted colours and calming imagery. Scenes from nature are proven to improve wellbeing, so these can work well.

Which books to feature

We’re often asked which books to feature when re-designing a school library.

Because our designs are bespoke, we always tailor our Wall Art to each school. This means we may include the school’s setbooks for a particular year, or cover themes that link back to their curriculum.

Broadly speaking, there are a few ‘themes’ you can consider for your school library;

Fantasy and Imagination – for example this wall we designed for Ravenswood School.

Classic and well-loved texts – like Alice in Wonderland, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe and The Jungle Book

Character and values – feature books that teach a lesson or match your school’s values

Memorable quotesinspire, motivate and boost morale as pupils spend time in their library

Calming nature – Forests, green spaces and even underwater themes work well for calm spaces

About Promote Your School

We’re an education design agency with over twenty years’ experience. Our Co-founder, Lisa Savage, has over 20 years’ experience in the education industry as a teacher, senior leader, advisor and educational consultant. She has worked in schools of varying size, age phase, Ofsted status and management status.

We design bespoke Wall Art for schools in the UK, Europe and the rest of the world. What makes us unique is that we offer a fully consultative service, which starts with a free site visit to your school. From there, we’ll create a bespoke quote, guide you through the design process and finish with printing and installation of your artwork.

Take a look at our Case Studies to see more of our work, or get in touch to learn more.