A year ago, the library at Locke High School in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles didn't get a lot of use. Rows of dusty encyclopedias couldn't compete with online research, and because the school couldn't afford a librarian, it wasn't even possible to check out other books. Today, the space is transformed: There are still some books around, but the main focus is providing a place for students to practice skills like creative thinking and collaboration.
"We wanted to see what the future of the library would look like in 2050," says Viktor Venson, founder of the collective No Right Brain Left Behind, which worked with Green Dot Public Schools to redesign the space after winning a grant from LA2050. "We also wanted to see what the future of education would look like through that lens—if there was an amazing collaborative space within each school, how that could energize the rest of the school."
Instead of plastic chairs lined up at traditional tables, the room has casual seating; there's no longer a rule against talking, so students can sit together to work on new ideas. The space has state-of-the-art presentation equipment, so students can practice skills they'll use at work. And though it's called "Locke Jetspace" now, and not officially a library, it still has books.
"We want to keep the serendipity of discovering an amazing book," Venson says. "That's one of the amazing elements with a library—you can discover new worlds and stumble upon things. We chose books that were more inspirational and more visual, books that could spark interest, and then the students can go deeper into a subject with other tools."
Is this the future of every school library book collection? Not necessarily, Venson says.
"Each school and each situation will warrant different solutions and different mixes of content," he says. "I think the question is, what kind of information are we looking to access in these books? Sources like encyclopedias are arguably not as relevant anymore when you can access that information on your phone."
The new space meant to be as inspirational for teachers as for students. "When you come into the space, the concept is that we're all sort of starting as learners and exploring and discovering," Venson explains. "It's a space for teachers and students learning together."
The team is testing out new types of educational programs along with the redesigned space. In some cases, they're working with other partners—like JR Hildebrand, an IndyCar driver, who is collaborating on workshops that use motor sports to interest students in subjects like physics.
Ultimately, No Right Brain Left Behind hopes to help bring similar spaces to other schools. "You have about 81,000 public school libraries in the U.S. right now, and most are unfortunately underused," says Venson. "Our bigger vision with this is to create a kit, an open-source development plan for the redesign of these underused spaces."