The Hyperlinked School Library

The learning commons concept has begun to be applied to academic and school libraries. Rather than a quiet, independent study space and book warehouse, learning commons are vibrant, active spaces in which learning, collaboration, and instruction intertwine. Adaptable spaces with moveable chairs and desks, even bookcases, replace traditional spaces of rigid structure, stacks, and cubicles (Holland, 2015). Adding comfortable furniture, natural lighting, and wireless connections make the space more accommodating and inviting. In combination with a participatory culture, the learning commons can provide space for students to learn, play, and innovate. As Loertscher & Koechlin proposed in 2014, “the learning commons serve a unique purpose in the school as a bridge between educational philosophy being practiced and the real world” (p. E3)

CSUN Oviatt Library Learning Commons

CSUN Oviatt Library Learning Commons

Allowing students to make more decisions in their own educational experience is important. In reflecting on education, Sir Ken Robinson described our educational system as being based on the fast food model – everything is standardized, and like fast food, our educational system is “impoverishing our spirits and our energies.” We need personalization, rather than conformity, and we need passion (TED, 2010). In current educational practice, it feels as if the Common Core dictates everything. Teachers’ passions are avoided, as well as students’. The old days of allowing some freedom to discover and inspire are virtually eliminated. Allowing students to come into the library and follow their hearts is motivating.

If I could plan a learning commons at my school, I would include it in the first floor of one of our new buildings, near the heart of the campus. It would be a large space, with room enough for two computer labs for class visits, plus additional space for 30 free-access computers to be used for instruction or as needed (with additional laptops available). There would be lots of electrical outlets (currently a huge problem), some café-type tables and chairs, and if possible, an actual café. The seating would be comfortable and flexible, so it could be moved to accommodate student groups working on projects, individuals working on assignments, performances or speakers. Using the Nordic Four-Space Model for Public Libraries, the performance area would allow for author visits, poetry slams, and student performances to take place. The quiet area would allow students to read and study. The inspiration area would allow students to create presentations, videos, 3D printing, etc. While the meeting space would allow participation in programming and planning of library and school activities (Velásquez, 2015, pp. 9-16). I would recruit student and staff input for the planning of the learning commons, and the vision would be a shared one.



Holland, B. (2015, Jan. 14). 21st century libraries: The learning commons [Blog post]. Retrieved from

Loertscher, D. V., & Koechlin, C. (2014, March 1). Climbing to excellence: Defining characteristics of successful learning commons [PDF]. Retrieved from

TED. (2010, February). Ken Robinson: Bring on the learning revolution! [Video file]. Retrieved from revolution#t-532202

Velásquez, J. (2015). Real-world teen services. Chicago: American Library Association.

~ by Lori Broger-Mackey on March 9, 2017.

4 Responses to “The Hyperlinked School Library”

  1. Your ideas for designing your own learning commons at your school sounds wonderful. I recently took my preschool class to the library at our school and was gazing around in wonder at how staid and boring it is. It is basically tables with chairs and shelves with books. There are posters all around encouraging quiet and there is a very 70s feel to it. There are no computers at all or any other type of technology. All I kept thinking during story time was “oh, what I could do with this space and just a little money!” Hopefully, someday soon this library will get a nice makeover, but for now, I will just have to continue to dream.

  2. @gina,
    Sadly, I bet it was the 70s was it was last updated. Typical of many school libraries. In California?

  3. Yup, California. It’s so sad!

  4. I like the way you think! Your design ideas for the learning commons are student-centered and FUN! Isn’t it interesting how something as simple as enough outlets can make a space more useful to learners. Years ago, I bought surge protectors with multiple plugs for my classroom for the student laptops.

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