Our Learning Commons is organic

What?  I’ve begun to see our KSS Library as ‘learning commons’.  Like models proposed by many academics, at KSS, the standard 4 walls ‘bricks and mortar’ library has already passed yet we vaguely consider what it is we do have.   Our notions  of a library are persistent and unrelenting sterotypes of an era that no longer serves our schools.  In 2001,when Kay Treadgold and I  fantasized about the role of the ‘library’ when a new building project was confirmed, we also considered the role of the ‘teacher-librarian’.  We knew a multi-use teaching focus in the space was important. We were conscious of the need to ‘prove’ to gatekeepers that teaching was important and that we were in fact specialists and leaders. We also wanted participation by students and faculty.  We wanted the space to be full of life.

Well it has come to pass pretty much as predicted but the pace of change has been staggering and now Sharon Bede and I struggle with how the Library can serve today’s 1800 students and staff.  We discuss almost every day.  Service and change is part of our DNA as much as reading and books.  It has become quite clear that our program evolves as we evolve.  The space is defined by how we define it.  When students provide ideas and feedback it nudges our thinking along.  When a teacher complains that he can’t find this or that or his class can’t do something, we envision ways to solve that.  When we acquired wireless access points we demanded 4 not 1.  We wanted coverage in areas that were not even used for computing yet. We knew our students would want and use their own devices everywhere they go.  Administration was supportive by giving us decision making opportunities as we retooled.

We are the captains who navigate the ship but it changes in incremental stages as people and technology change.  We observe how students use the area. We re-assess our resources.  We move furniture or shelving, or delete shelving.  The footprint of the space is permanent but the activity within changes.  It is organic.  That said, social changes, budgets, staffing, curriculum changes and hundreds of teenagers tax the productive use of a space and the resources consumed.  We will need to re-address space and function this summer as one computing lab is given up.  Form and function.  We have a large family of pets and now we have one less kennel.   It is organic, but it takes determined stewardship by qualified passionate teacher-librarians to keep the animal healthy.  A successful learning commons could easily become just a mall if  evolving design, administration and progressive teaching practices are not applied.  A learning commons needs a learning culture to thrive.   Administrators, school leaders and teacher-librarians can make it so.  I can safely say, rather like a large dog, our KSS Library could quickly become a fat old door mat  if not adequately fed, exercised and loved each and every day by kind owners.

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Filed under Education, KSS Student Body, School Library

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