Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Libraries: They sure don't look like they used to!

Someone once told me that if I needed an “outside the box” solution to a problem, ask a child. So I did! What do you like about the library? What do you wish were different about libraries? What does the library of the future look like? Aside from the pool, ice cream machine, and go karts (even though they would all make a memorable trip to the library), the children have lots of great ideas that helped me look at the library with a fresh set of eyes.

What Does the Library Need?
  1. Space: we need more room. This was the number one answer. More room is needed for all the activities that take place in the library. Reading, studying, collaborating, building/making, researching, web-surfing, learning, creating… they all take space.
  2. Stuff: we need more stuff. Computers and robotics were on the top of the “stuff” list. Students excitedly shared what they had used and what they had seen that they have not had a chance to use yet. 3-D printers and drones were also high on the list.
  3. Books: we need more books. I was very happy when so many children discussed adding more and more bookshelves, floor to ceiling, or even adding a second story to the library for more books.
What Does the Library of the Future Look Like?
  1. Many places for reading: Crawling into nooks, sofas, pillows, hammocks, and sound proof pods were all posed as ideas for reading spaces in the library.
  2. Book Automation: After picking a book from the online catalog, with the push of a button, the book glows or is picked up by a delivery drone to help patrons find what they are looking for.
  3. Food and Drink: Several said that they liked being able to pick up a hot chocolate or cookie at their local book store and thought it would be great to have this in the school library.
  4. Nature: Bringing in plants, trees, even animals like butterflies or fish ponds, was suggested to make it feel like they are reading outside.
  5. Virtual Tours: With the help of virtual reality bodysuits, being able to visit any museum, national park, or even the moon all from the library would be “insane”.
  6. Showcase: Large screens, video screens, video games, and even hologram projectors were offered as suggestions to show off student learning in the library.

So, the student idea of a library has many traits of a learning commons.  A learning commons is a physical and virtual space for learning. It is open and flexible and offers spaces for comfort as well as practical areas for work. The commons is a space of exploration, creation, collaboration, and fun.
Learning Commons at LHS

“While a library’s core purpose has remained the same – providing access to information – what has changed is how students access it and what they do with it when they get it.” Lavonne Boutcher -8 essential ingredients for your learning commons”

The information is still there for students to obtain, but the space itself fosters 21st century learning skills. The learning commons is a space with a focus not on consuming information, but rather a center for creating knowledge. So should all libraries make renovations and create a learning commons instead? Maggie Townsend, the LMS at Legacy High School stated, “They're both important. I just think that Learning Commons is a different mindset or philosophy.  A Learning Commons focuses on collaboration and creation.”  

Legacy has a learning commons, with traditional library materials such as books, magazines and computers. It also offers more non-traditional materials such as a 3-D printer, vinyl cutter, green screens, cameras, etc. When asked what makes the Legacy space more of a learning commons rather than a library, Maggie replied,

“I think it's a Learning Commons because the focus is on what the students are doing instead of the physical resources (books, magazines, etc.). Kids always ask, "Why can't we call it a library?" And my response is, "Does it look like a library? Does it feel like a library?" Their answer is always no.”
Learning Commons at LHS

Many libraries in the district are adding makerspaces within the library walls as well as spaces for collaboration and creation. It is amazing to walk in to libraries across the district and see some kids reading and researching, others creating Lego projects or using robots. Our libraries are helping create future ready trailblazers ready to change the world.

As for my library, I think it’s still a mix of library and learning commons with plans for more collaborative spaces and makerspace areas. I must say though that the student suggestions of a hot tub and cheeseburger vending machine do sound nice...

Thanks to Maggie Townsend, LMS at Legacy High School.

Twitter Questions

1. How can learning commons spaces help support PBL/classroom learning? 
2. What are ways to create collaborative spaces in current school libraries (on a budget)?
3. What zones could be added to a learning commons/library to support student learning?
4. What are ways to ensure that the space remains flexible and allows change over time?

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