Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Function and Charm for the School Library

 I am lucky enough to be opening a new elementary school library this upcoming fall - Officer Leonard Reed Elementary School in Cedar Park, Texas - Home of the Roadrunners!

The facility is gorgeous with it's bright colors, plentiful windows, and stunning stone features.  

The shelving is installed and books have been ordered!

A library's main purpose is to provide its patrons access to essential resources and information: books - both print and digital, databases, computer and Internet access, videos, audio books, etc.  And of course, in order to ensure that these resources are accessible, it is essential that the library be organized and navigable.

There are certain furnishings every library must have.  Shelving, tables, and chairs are obvious necessities, and in my case had already been selected and installed.  But equally essential for any elementary library are a story area, signage, and decorations.  It's through these furnishings and accessories that the library begins to take on its unique personality and charm. 
Careful consideration must be taken to ensure that the facility is inviting, happy, and maintains just the right balance between stimulating and serene.

The other day I reported to work and just sat for a good, long while.  And while I sat, I thought.  I thought about how my students would move through the space, interact with the resources and each other, and what I could do to facilitate its effectiveness and efficiency.

I knew I needed to provide signage.  Professional signage is expensive.
I'd already earmarked a hefty sum of my budget for end cap signs for each of the bookshelves, and I felt confident I could come up with wall signs that would be both effective and ... charming!

I've created simple signs from wooden fence pickets for my home, 

special events, 

and my previous library, and I felt confident they'd work well in this new space.

I purchased several 1" x 6" untreated, cedar fence pickets at the local big box home improvement store, each costing about $3.50.   

With a box of assorted bottles of paint, brushes, a set of alphabet stencils, 

and a couple of power tools, and necessary safety goggles and mask, I set off to make signs for the library that would be both functional and tastefully decorative.

 Using my small electric sander with 100 grit sandpaper, I gave each of my fence pickets a good sanding.

Part of the charm of these wooden signs is their "country-chic" style, so my goal wasn't to get a baby-bottom-smooth finish; I just wanted to get the rough bits smoothed out.

Next, I mixed my paint with quite a bit of water to create a color wash.
I color washed both sides of each board opting to use 5 coordinating colors pulled from the school's color pallet.

  A color wash allows the grain of the wood to show through, knots and all!

After allowing the boards to dry fully, I went over each one with the sander to give them a distressed look.

Using my alphabet stencils I stenciled the desired words onto the pickets.  

I opted to use a neutral antique white for my lettering.  After allowing plenty of time to dry, 

I lightly sanded over the lettering to give them an even more distressed look.

I trimmed off the excess wood and dog-eared the cut edges.

With a light coat of clear spray acrylic sealer and a couple of saw-tooth picture hangers attached to the backs, the signs were done.

Function, charm, and personality for the new library for just under $20!
I can't wait to see these in place, and you just know I'll be posting pictures!

All photographs taken by Paulette Rodriguez.


  1. Those kids are SO LUCKY!!!! Thank you for taking me along in this process. Don't hesitate to let me know when I might be able to lend a hand, okay? I would LOVE to help'

  2. Beautiful.... don't forget circulation desk

  3. You're right, Kat! How Could I have forgotten?!


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