University of Minnesota
minnesota writing project
center for writing

Minnesota Writing Project.Center for Writing's home page.

Sharon Lapensky

© 2002

Action Research:

Feng Shui and the Arrangement of a Library Media Center
Feng Shui, the ancient Chinese art of improving your life by arranging your environment according to certain principles of harmony and energy flow, has become increasingly more visible in popular American culture. Gift shops and bookstores display Feng Shui books among Asian-influenced items such as tabletop water fountains, bonsai trees, and miniature sand gardens with tiny rakes. My skepticism about feng shui stems from American culture’s irresistible tendency to take anything Asian and create some self-serving twist to it, perpetuating the stereotype of exotic Asian cultures luring Americans into their lairs. I intended to read about feng shui, when time permitted, to determine for myself the value of this recent phenomenon.

Interest in Topic
Curious about this quirky idea of rearranging furniture and balancing one’s environment based on ancient Chinese principles, I searched online for information about feng shui this summer. I came across a funny posting of questions and comments about feng shui and schools. Someone posed a question after observing the increase of feng shui materials in libraries, “Has anyone actually used it to arrange a library?” That’s a good question!

I just completed my first year as an elementary school media specialist and decided the arrangement of furniture, the circulation desk, and my office was not going to work for me. Once the school year ended and teachers left for the summer, the carpenters relocated the circulation desk and I moved my office to one that is more centrally located in the media center. In August, I plan to rearrange the furniture in relation to these changes and experiment with some basic principles of feng shui as I for the coming school year.

My Research

I would like to explore any positive influences the application of basic feng shui principles in the media center has on:
• student learning during research and other media projects;
• attitudes of media center patrons – staff, students, and parents;
• my own attitude towards my job and the people I serve.

My tendency is to think that people’s mood, stress level, and attitude are influenced more by their personalities, teaching and learning styles, and other events happening in their lives at a given moment. I am, however, aware of the influence certain music has on my own mood and attitude. I also find it very difficult to work in a messy, cluttered up, or dirty environment.

My Plan for the 2002-03 School Year
Three factors affecting school environment – lighting, noise level, and color--are considered in Kate Zernike’s article, “The Feng Shui of Schools.” Anyone who has taught in an elementary school knows a windowless classroom, the noise level of the room, and the surrounding colors affect the mood of both the teacher and the students. Other factors affecting the success and harmony of any environment include the amount of clutter and the flow of energy (chi), according to practitioners of feng shui. Something as simple as the positioning of one’s desk in a work space supposedly influences the success and attitude of a person. According to the American Feng Shui Institute web site, five elements and compass directions should be taken into account when arranging a living or work environment to maximize harmony and success.

My plan is to continue reading about some of the basic principles of feng shui this summer. Upon returning to the media center in the middle of August, I will apply some simple feng shui principles to the placement of furniture and other items in the media center before the teachers return for workshop week. As different stressful situations or conflicts arise throughout the year, I will experiment with changing something in the environment to positively influence the flow of energy in the media center.

This is highly subjective research due to other factors that will already contribute towards lowering stress levels in relation to the media center this year – my increased experience in the job, staff perceptions about the reasons for making changes, and students’ familiarity with my expectations. My goal, however, is to focus on something fun, intriguing, and new. I will document my experiences in a writing journal and, if nothing else, accumulate fun anecdotes about applying some basic feng shui principles in the media center.

Barron, Daniel D. (2000). Keeping Current: Feng Shui and the School Library Media Specialist. School Library Media Activities Monthly, 17: 1, 49-51.

Barron, Daniel D. (2001). School Library Media Facilities Planning: Physical and Philosophical Considerations. School Library Media Activities Monthly, 18: 1, 48-50.
Brown, Wendell D. (2001). Library Design Considerations. College Planning and Management, 4: 7, 22, 24.

Collins, Terah Kathryn (1996). The Western Guide to Feng Shui: Creating Balance, Harmony, and Prosperity in Your Environment. Carlsbad, California: Hay House, Inc.

Hyder, Carole, J. (1998) Wind and Water: Your Personal Feng Shui Journey. Freedom, California: The Crossing Press.

Kennedy, David Daniel (2001). Feng Shui for Dummies. New York: Hungry Minds, Inc.
Michael. (2002, July 5). Re: feng shui in libraries. Message posted to [link does not work]

Varma, Anu. (2002, July 5). Feng Shui Comes to the Library. Retrieved July 9, 2002

Zernike, Katie. (2001). The Feng Shui of Schools. The New York Times on the Web [link does not work]. Retrieved July 9, 2002

Creative writing:

Four Poems
Part One - West
I am the island woman,
alone, one,
surrounded by crashing waves.
The whirlpool,
the swirling undercurrent
is sucking me down.
I have no life preserver,
I am unexpectedly drowning.
The roar of the waves
grew deafeningly loud last spring.
It recedes and rises again each year.
I hang between two places,
like Hawaii in the Pacific.
I am caught between the whitecaps
and the depths of darkness.
I am the island woman, casual and tan.
My flip flops slap against my soles.
I no longer wear
halter tops and hip huggers,
but trade winds relax me.
I must return.
Aunties told their stories,
But endless questions remain.
I long to seize their memories,
to capture details from a distant past,
to briefly live three generations.
I am the island woman,
Growing loud and impatient
among a sea of white.
Lightening, thunder rattled my soul.
I covet my ancestors’ homogeny,
But assume a paled perspective
And find solace in a tranquil sea

Part Two - East
I finally stand up
and demand to be counted,
not as the island woman,
nor the exotic dragon lady.
Where is that calmness?
I was the silent woman,
the laughing woman,
the happy woman,
before the raging storm.
I am no longer silent.
I roar with contempt.
I see, and hear, and feel
the ocean of ignorance.
It is a harrowing journey,
With no sailboat for a blue Pacific.
No tropical breeze
to finger my hair,
or cool the humidity
from my skin.
I am now a chain of islands,
surrounded by unpredictable elements.
I paddle hard, pushing towards land,
but I am sinking, swirling
towards a tidal wave at sea.
I am afloat, no terra firma.
I need the mountain side
of the island again,
Diamond Head,
where the trade winds blow
and a bikini once revealed
the brown side of my being.

Mask in the Mirror
Hide your face, they say.
Alas, whose face is facing me?
It’s a mask in the mirror.
We’ll all pretend, they say.
Alas, why must the stage be white?
It’s a mask in the mirror.
Oh, we don’t mean you, they say.
Alas, do they really see me?
It’s a mask in the mirror.
Conform, so we feel safe, they say.
Alas, why don’t they get it?
It’s a mask in the mirror.
See me, I finally say.
Alas, I have quit your performance.
I have thrown that mask away.

Imagine the crashing surf
that will stir the salty water;
And play the cymbals
that will awaken the sleeping tide.
I’ll meet you where the mountain
merges into the sea,
And the pure white seagull
hovers like a plane over the water.
Walk out from under the shade
of the rustling tree,
And follow the dancing shadows,
chasing waves in the bright sun.
Glance towards a fold in the mountain
that envelopes a quiet temple.
Create an earthly serenity
that eludes the mortals’ folly.

Kids’ Play

Mom puts the iMac on the kitchen table. Scribe scribbles are set out to be transformed.

“I need to get these Scribe Notes done to rid myself of scribe stress,” she tells Dad.

Suddenly, in scamper two mini-scribes with note pads and pencils in hand. Mom is too busy to wonder about the motivations of the mini-mimes. She must rid herself of scribe stress and her fingers begin their mad dance across the keyboard.

“What would you like to order, ma’am?” asks the scribing son.


“What’s your order, please?” smiles the second scribing soul.

“Order for what?” mom asks as her fingers continue to fly across the alphabets, click, click, clicking.

“Wow! You type fast!” says the son scribe.

“May I take your order, please?” smiles the sister scribe.

Click, click, click – let’s conquer the computer concerto, Mom mumbles as she looks up. The type tapping continues at a tumultuous tempo.

“What kind of food would you like, ma’am?” ask the two smiling scribes.

“Food? Is this a restaurant?” Mom finally figures out. “I’d like Korean dumplings, rice, and some iced tea, please.”

“Yes, we are a Korean restaurant,” the waiting waiter replies. “Let me write this down. Korean dumplings, rice, iced tea.”

“Ok, dumplings, rice, iced tea,” sings the second server. “Coming right up!”

“Good, I’m very hungry,” says the pretend patron. Click, click, clicks continue as the clever kids create a meal ticket in their tiny tomes.

“Just sign your order ticket, ma’am,” the wonderful waiter requests as he hands the pencil to the scribe stressed, student-mom. The continuous clicking suddenly quits and the screen movements cease.

“Yes, ma’am,” smiles the second sunny scribe, “Sign this ticket, too, please!” Mom reaches for the pencil and signs the small scribes’ tiny tickets.

She smiles and suddenly sees her scribe scribbles to the left of the laptop again.

“Bedtime!” barks the body behind the silly scribes.

“Oh no, Dad!” moan the mini-merrymakers.

“Good night, mom! Love you!” they murmur into mom’s ears as they squeeze the scribe stressed mom with a happy hug.

“Love you, too!” mom manages to mention as the scribe scribbles scream from the pages of the notebook.

“Crazy as you make me!” everyone shouts, shaking with sheer delight. The imaginative imps scamper off to slumber until sunrise. Mom’s fingers fly onto the dance floor and she maintains the madness until midnight. Click, click, click! At last she conquers the computer and the frantic fellowship friends can fill their folders with fun.