I recently attended a workshop titled "Library as Learning Commons" which was sponsored by the SWBOCES. The speaker was Valerie Diggs from Chelmsford High School outside of Boston. That was such an informative talk. I learned a great deal about a library makeover. Yes she was able to put a lot of money into her library renovation. I won't have that luxury. But what I got out of her talk was how to change the perception of what your library is.

Is it a room full of books or can it be an oasis for student exchange? She got me thinking about how I can improve the library services and by that I don't mean exactly just offering more books or more databases. What can this room we call the library be? For her it meant a coffee shop (run by the students). It is a poetry slam stage. It is classroom meeting space. What she did was "build her library into the fabric of the school." Allow for student congregating areas. Allow for quiet zones. Allow for teachers to use the space as much as the students. Let the natural light flow into the space.

The Learning Commons, as Valerie's library is known, got me thinking about doing something quite similar. I'm considering changing the name from "library" to "learning commons" or something like it. By getting my classroom built in the former Authors Corner, I still get my quiet zone where students can read and I can teach a class. I need to have some tall bookshelves removed to allow more natural light to emit through the room.

I've already discontinued use of the Dewey system for the literary criticisms and for the opposite argument sources.

I will continue to document the process here with pictures.

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Comment by Barbara Barthelmes on May 3, 2010 at 4:01pm
Letty, thank you for sharing!

The idea of the name change from Library to Learning Commons is growing on me. At first I didn't take it seriously but I can see the validity of doing so. I think your ideas for applying the Learning Commons idea to the high school library are great. Glad the workshop was helpful!

Ross Todd, in his keynote address at the SLMS conference, discussed the heart of the learning commons shift in his presentation, which is here. He cited the March 2008 Educational Leadership article "Turning on the Lights" about how students learn important 21st century skills more in their afterschool lives than within school. It is significant because the library, it it becomes that safe place to explore and be engaged in technology for educational purposes, could help students "turn the lights on" while still in school. The flexibility and dynamic vision for school libraries as the Learning Commons is that vision.


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