A school and a library join up

This is a story from regional Australia where joined up thinking maximised the social and economic benefits for the whole community. Both the school and the library facilities needed an upgrade. So here was an opportunity to develop a ‘joint use’ community hub to service the town and to support lifelong learning in the community. However, the project, underpinned by universal design, had its challenges.

David Tordoff and Julia Atkins discuss the project and its challenges in a book chapter. The title is Developing a School and Community Learning Hub: A Case Study from Regional Australia.

Understanding the place and the community who will use the facility was a key pillar in the success of the project. A strong shared vision and clear identification of needs led to the development of a highly integrated, adaptable facility that will respond to school and community needs. Photo from the book chapter

Artist impression of what the school and library facility will look like.

The New South Wales Department of Education generally encourages schools to engage in shared use of school facilities. The school controls the facility and allows community use out of school hours. However, this is not as effective as it could be due to governance barriers.

The overarching project design guidelines included universal design principles along with the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Project specific design principles were developed to embrace life long learning, celebrating art and multicultural heritage, and embedding universal design principles.

The chapter explains the issues, the processes, connection to land, place, history and people. Consultation with the Wiradjuri community had a significant impact on the design, artefacts, and the naming of places. Images help with explaining the concepts.

Policies and protocols

No matter how well the built environment is designed, they way the place and space is used by people can still raise problems. For example, spaces designed for quiet activities will only work well if users keep quiet. Likewise, spaces designed for collaboration do not suddenly give people the ability to collaborate.

This project paves the way for other communities to create community hubs within and adjacent to school grounds. With several stakeholders, a collaborative approach is needed to negotiate the way through governance issues.

An interesting book chapter for designers, local government, community groups, school staff, and library staff. It’s open access.

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