Libraries are reinventing themselves. They are evolving from places of silent, independent study filled with weighty tomes and archivesn into full-service learning, research, and project spaces.
This summer the high school library media center was expanded and restructured to become a modern learning commons with a versatile environment that supports multiple learning activities.
“It was important that we transform and modernize the school’s library to meet the evolving needs of our students and the requirements of their academic work,” explains High School Principal Tim Brunson. “The new space is modeled after elite college libraries and research centers, and it thoughtfully merges the best of the physical and digital environments.”
Learning commons bring together some of the finest features of traditional libraries, labs, lounges, and classrooms into a single space where students can work together and establish the kinds of connections that promote active, engaged learning.
The school’s new learning commons provides space for group meetings along with the technology tools needed to support creative efforts. For instance, there is now a 21st-century classroom (see p. 1) and three glass-enclosed huddle rooms where small groups of students (typically between four and 10) can work on a project, hold a study session, practice presentations, and use video conferencing software. Teachers also now have more flexibility in assigning projects that require collaboration and creative learning because of the new rooms. Furthermore, the huddle rooms include distance learning technology and, at times, will be where small groups of students take such courses, or where BH-BL faculty broadcast a course to students outside of the district.
The main area of the learning commons has been remodeled into an adaptable setting with moveable chairs, tables, and couches. This was done to foster an inviting space that encourages communication and participatory learning among students, or to allow students to create a quiet place to work. While it may seem that today’s students conduct much of their research online, books and other paper references are still relevant and are available in the high school’s library media center.
“Fortunately, technology enriches the traditional resources found in libraries and research centers,” says Supervisor of Library Media Suzanne Rayome.
For instance, much like classroom teachers, library media specialists will use a combination of paper materials, books, digital resources, and Chromebooks to create custom learning and research environments for students.
“We want students to be able to blend content sources from the past with the present, and be comfortable using all different types of research tools,” adds Rayome.
The new learning commons also includes a small, traditional computer lab and a fully functional school store that will be run by students. There’s also a cafe with a seating area where students can buy coffee, snacks, and other beverages throughout the day. The cafe, or common area, is modeled after college and university campuses to offer students an informal gathering place to meet, share ideas, socialize, etc. District leaders are also planning to open a student-run branch of a local credit union.