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)
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 https://www.edutopia.org/blog/21st-century-libraries-learning-commons-beth-holland
Loertscher, D. V., & Koechlin, C. (2014, March 1). Climbing to excellence: Defining characteristics of successful learning commons [PDF]. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/aasl/sites/ala.org.aasl/files/content/aaslpubsandjournals/knowledgequest/docs/KQ_MarApr14_ClimbingtoExcellence.pdf
TED. (2010, February). Ken Robinson: Bring on the learning revolution! [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/sir_ken_robinson_bring_on_the_ revolution#t-532202
Velásquez, J. (2015). Real-world teen services. Chicago: American Library Association.