Learning Curve for a Learning Commons

I have been swamped at work. This weekend I will be doing, yet more work. *martyr voice* Somebody, seriously, kill me now.

My library is beginning to plan a Learning Commons. We already have a lot of computers, but we want to add the media, IT, and teaching services that are frequently under the umbrella of “Learning or Information Commons.” I am on the policies task force and thus will be writing up the group’s discussion into something resembling formal policies tomorrow (in my jammies with coffee if possible).

It has been an interesting conversation. What kind of software will we support? What can people do on the computers? What equipment will we check out? What kind (and to what extent) of IT support will we offer? Who gets to use what? Most importantly, what the heck is a Learning Commons anyway?

There are other groups that are dealing with things like staffing and space. I will be interested to see how all of the groups come together with their disparate parts. I have been immersing myself in literature and web sites to see what others have tried. Some things have succeed, some fail and need adjustment.

I think the important thing will be to build something that can be flexible. We can not build a Learning Commons with 2006 technology and services in mind or it will not be useful in two years, maybe even one. We will have to envision a Learning Commons that is nimble, like the organization we are trying to build, which can adapt to new technology and new uses of its space.

I think one key to this will be creating a space that is not locked down. A space that is open to the inclusion of new technologies and services. We should think of technologies as services rather than technologies. Things we are offering users are services regardless of the physical or virtual forms they take. A book, research help, instruction sessions, and a multimedia editing room are all services.

It is a challenge I can not wait to see in the making.

–Jane, do you know your part in all this?

2 thoughts on “Learning Curve for a Learning Commons

  • September 8, 2006 at 4:15 pm
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    We’ve gone through a similar exercise here over the past year and the number one message for me regarding space has been flexibility. The more you can be set up so that people can arrange spaces to suit them at the moment, the better the space will work. The fewer permanent walls you have, the better the space will work. I was intrigued by a classroom space that we saw at Emory, where all the tables are modular and interlocking, all of the chairs are on wheels, the computers are all laptops stored in a cabinet, etc. You can reconfigure the room entirely to suit just about an formal or informal purpose in about five minutes. If you can imagine that somebody might want to move a piece of furniture — make it possible for them to do that.

  • September 8, 2006 at 4:21 pm
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    I know my part. It is to be extra sweet to my spouse when she comes home after working so hard. And pet on her when she is feeling stressed because she is overwhelmed by having to do work at home.

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