Draft 1 Forging New Pathways to Libraries Ready for All Learners--Redesigning Learning Enviornments and the Learner Experience
CLEVELAND PUBLIC LIBRARY
Submitted by Buffy J. Hamilton, Learning Strategist
Forging New Pathways to
Libraries Ready for All Learners
Redesigning Our Learning Environments and the Learner
CC IMAGE VIA HTTP://WWW.FLICKR.COM/PHOTOS/B-TAL/116220689/
Forging New Pathways to Libraries
Ready for All Learners
Redesigning Our Learning Environments and the Learner Experience
Composing a CPL
Images via Microsoft Clip Gallery
PART I: INTRODUCTION AND OVERVIEW
Rather than writing a
playbook of pedagogy,
learning targets, assessment
tools, and strategies for
teaching and learning, I
advocate for using an
innovation hub approach to
help incubate ideas and
(Mathews, "Hubs and
Centers as a Transitional
Strategy"). With the support
of the Learning Strategist
who will be serving as mentor, learning coach, advocate, and
researcher, each branch will engage in ongoing transformation by
learning how to:
1. Identify pivot points for meaningful and strategic change to
develop a specific theme for learning and/or learning initiatives.
2. Develop and incubate a range of solutions and strategies for
solving those challenges in their learning environments using
design thinking and instructional design processes.
3. Assess the effectiveness and impact of those learning solutions
and strategies with young people (preK-teens).
GRAPHIC CREDIT: MATHEWS, "CHANGE NEEDS A BRAND:
DON'T FEAR LABELS, LEVERAGE THEM"
This participatory approach to design
thinking will be a hybrid that blends elements
of design thinking. Not only will this approach
help branch librarians cultivate a culture of
learning that values inquiry and creative
thinking, but it will ultimately help library staff
at the branch levels to build and sustain their
capacity to organically identify and respond to
challenges in their learning.
By recasting each library branch as an
innovation hub site within the larger Cleveland
Public Library, we will collectively document
and compose the narratives of learning in
terms of processes and products, what we did
and why, what worked or did not work and
why, our successes, our challenges, and our
next steps. As we embrace experience as
education, we will “run plays” for innovative
learning practices and vet the strategies that become part of our CPL
actively involves all
stakeholders in the
design process in order
to help ensure the
project meets their
implementing ideas to
develop prototypes or
models of best practice
("Participatory Design"; Reich, "The
Digital Fault Line: Power, Policy, and
After engaging in summative assessment, the innovation hub
and Learning Strategist will share emerging best practices,
tools, and strategies in our work with youth as well as our
insights about we learned as professionals and how that will
inform not only future work on site at the branch, but how it
might help us refine the implementation of this model of
innovation hubs at the next wave of branch sites.
Best practices, questions, expertise, and insights will be shared
regularly and ubiquitously between the innovation hub team,
Learning Strategist, Public Services, Youth Services, OPS, and
Knowledge Office to build a larger shared cohesive body of
understanding from this work that crosses departmental
boundaries with both vertical and horizontal knowledge.
The Learning Strategist will be on site three days a week for
approximately eight to ten weeks to serve as a “guide on the
side” to facilitate ideation, implementation, and assessment.
The Knowledge Office and Public Services select an intial
incubation site and meet with site staff to introduce the
innovation hub concept
HUBS: FIRST STEPS AND
SUBSEQUENT “WAVES” OF
The process for implementing this approach will help
each branch re-conceptualize their work as
innovation hubs to develop our collective learning
playbook. For our initial innovation hub, our
prototype plan includes these key components:
THE ROLES AND
WORK OF THE
Serves as a mentor who
will embody multiple
roles as co-teacher and
co-learner with staff,
partner, and researcher.
Helps staff think
and thoughtfully assess
our work while helping
staff to identify insights
from both successful as
well as unsuccessful
processes of incubating
staff ideas and strategies
for learning and helps
the staff share the stories
of this work in a
transparent manner with
fellow CPL librarians to
frame innovation as an
ongoing effort that is
discursive and moves
along a continuum of
Through this participatory design approach
that embraces a hybrid of design thinking
and innovation hubs, we will
collaboratively compose a learning
playbook as a community of learners that
will document and share best practices for
teaching, learning, and assessment by
themes that emerge from our daily work
rooted in the needs of the community. The
process of participatory design as
innovation hubs and the end product of the
first edition of our learning playbook will
enable all staff to:
1. Function as a community of learners
as staff at the building level as well as
collaborative communities of learning
across the system.
2. Co-position ourselves as co-learners
with our neighborhood communities.
3. Utilize participatory design as a
vehicle for branches to self- identify
goals they want to target related to
the larger goals of the strategic plan
and emerging practices for achieving
Springboards for Diving Deep
WHAT MIGHT THE DEVELOPMENT
OF THE PLAYBOOK LOOK LIKE IN
ACTION AS INNOVATION HUBS
INCUBATE AND ASSESS IDEAS AND
STRATEGIES TO MEET THE NEEDS
OF THEIR LEARNING
A children’s librarian at an innovation
hub notices children who visit after
school are often unruly and have
difficulty acting appropriately. With
the help of the Learning Strategist,
she observes the children and learns
about kinesthetic styles of learning
and dramatic play. Her design
challenge is now framed as “How do
we help kinesthetic learners channel
their energy and utilize drama as a
medium for learning?” She enlists
the help of a community partner to
serve as a co-teacher to help children
explore elements of drama and stage
As the librarian and learning
strategist formatively and
summatively assess the project
implementation, they observe
children who were previously
considered “behavior problems” are
now engaged and excited about
learning. Consequently, with the
input of the children, they begin co-
designing storytimes, structured
small group experiences, and
independent learning centers
focused around the theme of dramatic
play and performance; they also now
have a context to make strategic
recommendations to reimagine the
physical learning spaces in the
library for children.
This initial incubation trial is now also
opening up possibilities for
community mentors from the arts and
drama communities in greater
Cleveland who can help the library
grow programming and participation
around the theme of dramatic
performance and play.
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• Branch Innovation
• Learning Strategist
The Work: Process
• Next Steps
PART II: COLLABORATIVELY CREATING
A LEARNING PLAYBOOK AS A
COMMUNITY OF LEARNERS
We will endeavor to be a library that is a network of sustainable learning
• Are genuinely responsive to the needs our communities,
• Provide multiple points of access to meaningful learning
• Create learning enviornments that give everyone an opportunity
to participate. While not everyone has to participate, multiple
points of access and mediums invite young people of different
modalties and learning styles to participate (Jenkins, "Confronting
the Challenges of a Participatory Culture").
We seek to develop a “playbook” of best practices and pedagogy that
will help all staff grow their capacity to be effective instructional
designers who can identify best practices for identifying learning
outcomes, creative approaches to teaching and learning, and strategies
for assessing learning in multiple modes.
How might we begin to cultivate a playful, flexible, and responsive
culture of learning for our patrons, particularly our children and teen
learners, as well as our staff?
How might we begin involving our youth in the design process of
learning environments and experiences?
How might a participatory culture of learning position us to grow co-
created learning experiences between staff and youth?
How might a participatory culture of learning help us re-
conceptualize our literacy practices and beliefs?
How might we diversify entry points and pathways for learning
opportunities in our branches?
How might we address issues of equity across the design and
assessment processes to address participation gaps in our
How do we honor multiple ways of knowing, meaning making, and
experience as education in our work?
How will our work help us shape a practice of “hope and critique”?
TAKING AN INQUIRY
STANCE ON LEARNING
The first edition of the CPL’s Learning
Playbook will focus on youth as
research has shown this is the first
priority of our community. As staff collaborates to build this playbook
from the “ground up” so that our work is rooted thoughtfully in theory,
action, and reflection, we will begin by exploring this first set of
essential questions to guide our work:
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Questions informed by the research and writings of : Ito, Mizuko, Kris Gutiérrez, Sonia Livingstone, Bill Penuel, Jean Rhodes, Katie Salen, Juliet Schor, Julian Sefton-Green, S. Craig
Watkins. 2013. Connected Learning: An Agenda for Research and Design. Irvine, CA: Digital Media and Learning Research Hub. Available At
http://dmlhub.net/sites/default/files/ConnectedLearning_report.pdf; Nieto, S. (2013). Language, Literacy, and Culture: Aha! Moments in Personal and Sociopolitical Understanding.
Journal of Language and Literacy Education [Online], 9(1), 8-20. Available at Http://jolle.coe.uga.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Language-Literacy-Culture.pdf
• Is a structured approach to generating and
• The five phases of design thinking include:
discovery, interpretation, ideation,
experimentation, and evolution
(IDEO, "Design Thinking « Design Thinking for Educators")
• Hubs are collaborative cross-departmental groups
in which library employees of varying
backgrounds and skills come together on common
themes of strategic importance.
• The hubs act in one sense as a “research and
development lab” to explore, imagine, and
brainstorm new roles and activities for libraries
and deeper understandings about teaching,
learning, and service.
• They also are a “strike force” that implements,
supports, and assesses emerging library roles and
(Mathews, "R&D @ VT - a Quick Glance @ LearnHUB").
Incubating Playbook Practices as Innovation Hubs
Cleveland Public Library will build upon principles of design thinking as
well as Brian Mathews’ (Associate Dean for Outreach and Learning at
Virginia Tech’s University Libraries) model of innovation hubs to help
branch staff identify current strengths in children’s services as well as
pivot points for change and growth.
By using design thinking principles and an innovation hub approach, we
can function as “incubator” sites who authentically and organically:
organize our approach to testing ideas and strategies
identify themes and patterns that emerge from our work
systematically documenting and reflecting upon our work.
• Growing our understanding of participatory learning so that
all stakeholders feel confident in testing ideas and
contributing to a shared set of practices and strategies for
developing effective learning opportunities for youth.
• Working in the mindset of "let's do this together" and
experiencing what we are incubating together.
• Breaking down our work into manageable steps to work
toward the larger vision of and build fluency in our
Help People Move
from Point A to Point
• Honoring the reality that all stakeholders are at varying
points on the spectrum in their skillsets and thinking;
working together to meet each other at points of need to
build up each team member constructively.
• The Learning Strategist will serve as a mentor and coach to
provide individualized help for each team member and to
use what staff learn as a starting point for growth and
• The Learning Strategist will serve as a situated co-learner
and "connector" to honor and share the great work team
members are doing.
• The Learning Strategist will help document and share to
help everyone move to a transformative level of work.
Model and Promote
• All team members will encourage and model risk taking to
encourage each other to try ideas and push our thinking
• Balancing a sense of urgency about our work while gently
nudging the quality and depth of thinking and practice.
People Are the Focal
• Valuing what each team member brings to the table and
recognizing our uniqueness and needs as learners.
This incubator mindset will enable branch staff, the learning strategist,
and library administration to have a “fail-proof” climate for growing staff
confidence, capacity, and skill sets and to help all stakeholders
implement what George Couros identifies as practices of innovation:
(Couros, "10 Ideas to Move Innovation Forward")
Select initial site for this process
with the help of Public Services
Assemble Participatory Learning
Innovation Hub team at the site
(Branch Manager, Youth
Librarian, Library Assistant Youth
Emphasis, Learning Strategist,
Chief Knowledge Officer)
Ideate essential questions
related to the learning spaces
AND experiences we want to
create in order to articulate
themes, strategies, and practices
for participatory learning to
incubate Incubation and design
(How might we…?)
Participatory Learning Innovation
Hub team will collect, pilot,
assess, and document strategies,
design processes, tools, themes,
and learning outcomes.
Learning Strategist will help map
and align work to CPL strategic
plan and other community
Formative and Summative
Sharings of Our Practices and
(Google Hangouts, Videos,
Google Community or
Sharepoint, Incubation Project
Initial hub site will tweak this
process based on what we have
learned together and apply
insights to the next wave of
The Learning Strategist will work with an initial “innovation hub” site
where we will collectively build, learn, and assess our ideas, practices,
and strategies together over a period of eight to ten weeks. At the end
of this initial pilot, the branch team and Learning Strategist will
collectively share our work, insights, and recommendations not only for
that innovation site, but for the process and how it will inform the work of
the next wave of innovation sites. Below is a visualization of how we will
approach our work at the initial innovation hub site:
As we refine this process of dreaming and designing, ideating and
implementing, the Learning Strategist will be able to work with multiple
branches to incubate and innovate as we build the playbook together
branch by branch. By December 2014, we will have our initial crowd
sourced draft of the playbook that will be shared online with the CPL
community as well as our colleagues in the larger library community.
Challenge and interrogate our beliefs about what we teach, when
we teach, how we teach, what we can stop, what we need to start,
and identifying who we should work with in the larger Cleveland
community ((Mathews, Burkhardt, and Pressley, "Hacking the
Empower our librarians as instructional designers and learning
Align our practices with the library mission and library strategic
plan ((The Third Teacher, "Hack Class: Shape Your Ecology,
Empower Learning at SXSWedu 2013").
Transform the culture of learning for the Cleveland Public Library
staff AND patrons by honoring and valuing curiosity, questioning,
Develop a deeper understanding of our “wrapper” for
transformative change, participatory learning and culture
(Mathews, "CHANGE NEEDS A BRAND: Don't Fear Labels,
Create meaningful and ongoing opportunities for learning for both
library patrons as well as staff.
Assess impact with qualitative and quantitative data as well as
multiple theoretical lenses to give context to our work as we
consider issues of equitable access to opportunities for learning
and what we see in the daily activities of the library.
(THOMAS AND BROWN)
PART III: THEORETICAL LENSES FOR
EXAMINING OUR WORK AND
Participatory Learning: Our Compass for Vibrant
Communities of Learning
The Cleveland Public Library Strategic Plan 2012-2014 outlines five
1. Form communities of learning
2. Fight community deficits
3. Ready for the Future: (CPL 150)
4. Cultivate a global perspective
5. Innovate for efficient and
This plan reflects the library’s mission to
be “the people’s university” and elevate
the library as a hub for multiple kinds of
learning opportunities for people of all
ages. In order to effect this change, we
must seek the input of our branch
communities to be strategic in
identifying our learning outcomes,
pedagogy, strategies, and assessments
as we strive to approach teaching and
learning in a thoughtful, reflective
manner. We must also be willing as
practitioners to embody the qualities of
lifelong learners to elevate our own
capacity to provide effective service that has measurable impact with
supporting quantitative and qualitative data. In Expect More:
Demanding Better Libraries for Today's Complex World, Dr. R. David
Lankes asserts “Great libraries come from great librarians” (106).
Growing an internal culture of learning and innovation are imperative
for achieving the strategic plan’s goals and effecting change in the city
R. David Lankes
When analyzed as a
word cloud, the
strategic plan reflects an
emphasis on learning
and communities, a
focal point that is an
impetus for a new
trajectory to take us
from being a library that
is collection centric to
one is learner centric
where experience is an
essential pathway to
meaning making and
formation of communities of learning both internally with staff as well as
externally with our patrons will be essential to the library achieving the
other four strategic priorities. This endeavor will inherently require us
to adopt an inquiry stance on all aspects of our beliefs, practices,
expectations, and policies as a library as well as the roles we play and
can potentially play in our communities.
How do we begin to conceptualize a lens to frame these shifts? Brian
Mathews advocates organizations begin with identifying a label for
change because “Change requires a flexible label. Change needs a
brand. It needs texture and context. Change without a wrapper is just
chaos” (“CHANGE NEEDS A BRAND: Don't Fear Labels, Leverage
Them"). Concepts of participatory learning and culture will serve as the
“label” that will be the organizing framework to help Cleveland Public
Library identify pivot points for change as we explore what it means to
be a library driven by community needs and aspirations. By creating
learning environments through a lens of instructional design that values
collaborative, flexible, and playful learning experiences rooted in actual
community needs and wishes, the Cleveland Public Library can begin to
craft authentic learning spaces that are truly participatory.
ORIGINAL GRAPHIC BY BUFFY J. HAMILTON
Principles to Guide Our Design of Learner
Experiences and Instructional Design
As a library that will embrace participatory culture and learning,
Cleveland Public Library will seek to value and honor these qualities in
the learner experience:
1. Multiple access points to artistic
expression and civic engagement
2. Strong support for creating and
3. Fluidity in the roles of novices and
4. A sense of connectedness and
5. Patron contributions matter and will be
visible in library services,
programming, and learning spaces
(Jenkins, "Confronting the Challenges of a Participatory Culture")
This culture of learning, inquiry, creating, and sharing will offer people
opportunities to join as well as initiate communities of learning that
enable participants to:
1. Have many chances to exercise creativity through diverse media,
tools, and practices
2. Adopt an ethos of co-learning, respecting each person’s skills and
3. Experience heightened motivation and engagement through
4. Experience activities and experiences that feel relevant to
learners’ identities, interests, and needs
5. Honor rich connections between the worlds of home, school, work,
community, and the world at large
(Reilly et al.)
While this new emphasis
on participatory learning
may seem like a radical
shift, CPL’s history
reflects this approach in
its early history during
the first three decades of
the twentieth century.
Library clubs, which
were initially organized
around reading interests in the late 1800s and early 1900s, provided
children opportunities to explore interests and engage in inquiry with
their peers; these clubs were facilitated by children’s librarians as well
as community members who served as mentors to help children engage
in “…multiple activities to stimulate minds, inspire imaginations, and
have some fun” (Wieland, Children’s Work Library Reading Clubs 1903-
1936). At their height, some 40,000 children were participating in
library clubs, and ninety-five volunteers served the clubs. Some clubs
were supported by community organizations, such as the Natural History
Museum and Cleveland Museum of Art.
The clubs were organic in nature with some lasting only a few weeks
while others were sustained over long periods of time, including some
that reorganized over periods of five to ten years. The clubs included a
diverse range of groups, including those who belonged to gangs as well
as children of various ethnicities. Some clubs included both boys and
girls while others were primarily one gender. Clubs met at various
times of the day and intervals; a club for working adolescents even met
at night to accommodate the needs of teens who held day jobs to
support their families. Some clubs took field trips, staged productions of
plays, and donated their crafts, such as rag dolls and quilts, to others in
need throughout the community.
LORAIN BRANCH CLUB; PHOTO COURTESEY OF, CLEVELAND PUBLIC LIBRARY
Interests of the clubs
science, drama and
debate, travel, and
crafts. The clubs not
only provided entry
points to hands-on
exploration of an
area of interest, but
they also were a real-world springboard to books and informational
materials. The library clubs reflected the qualities of participatory
culture and what James Gee today calls affinity spaces: “locations where
groups of people are drawn together because of a shared, strong
interest or engagement in a common activity… affinity spaces
encourage the sharing of knowledge or participation in a specific area,
and informal learning is a common outcome” (Wikipedia, "Affinity
These clubs are historically significant because they embody the
principles of participatory learning: clubs were learning communities
formed around patron interests; librarians, mentors, and patrons were
co-learners; many clubs provided opportunities for participants to share
their knowledge or creations with a larger community; the clubs
contributed to a sense of belonging for children and teens whose needs
and interests were at the center of this medium for interest driven
learning that provided fun, enrichment, and education. Children’s
librarians had the professional freedom and agency to help establish,
facilitate, and design learning experiences for these clubs with input
from the children.
JUNIOR DRAMATISTS JUNIOR DRAMATISTS, MILES PARK BRANCH, MARCH 1931
IN THE “ENCHANTED GATE” CELIA PARKER, LEADER; PHOTO COURTESY OF CLEVELAND PUBLIC
many kinds of
As we reimagine ways to elevate the work of CPL children’s librarians to
cultivate more vibrant learning communities through our branches, the
work of children’s librarians from the past provides guideposts for
effective practices for the present. Innovative learning spaces and
experiences for children in our branch libraries will reflect participatory
qualities to engage young people.
Cleveland Public Library Strategic Plan 2012-2014. N.p.: n.p., n.d. PDF.
Couros, George. "10 Ideas to Move Innovation Forward." The Principal of Change.
N.p., 22 May 2013. Web. 30 May 2013.
IDEO. "Design Thinking « Design Thinking for Educators." Design Thinking « Design
Thinking for Educators. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 May 2013.
Ito, Mizuko, Kris Gutiérrez, Sonia Livingstone, Bill Penuel, Jean Rhodes, Katie Salen,
Juliet Schor, Julian Sefton-Green, S. Craig Watkins. 2013. Connected Learning:
An Agenda for Research and Design. Irvine, CA: Digital Media and Learning
Research Hub. Available At
Jenkins, Henry. "Confronting the Challenges of a Participatory Culture." Web log
post. Confessions of an Aca-Fan: The Official Weblog of Henry Jenkins. N.p., 25
Oct. 2006. Web. 23 May 2013. <http://henryjenkins.org>.
Lankes, R. David. Expect More: Demanding Better Libraries for Today's Complex
World. [S.l.]: R. David Lankes, 2012. Print.
Mathews, Brian, Andy Burkhardt, and Lauren Pressley. "Hacking the Learner
Experience." Hacking the Learner Experience. SlideShare, 16 Apr. 2013. Web.
07 May 2013. <http://www.slideshare.net/laurenpressley/hack-18938371>.
Mathews, Brian. "CHANGE NEEDS A BRAND: Don't Fear Labels, Leverage Them."
Web log post. The Ubiquitous Librarian. The Chronicle of Higher Education, 25
Apr. 2013. Web. 02 May 2013.
Mathews, Brian. "Hubs and Centers as a Transitional Strategy." Web log post. The
Ubiquitous Librarian. The Chronicle of Higher Education, 23 Apr. 2013. Web.
02 May 2013.
Mathews, Brian. "R&D @ VT - a Quick Glance @ LearnHUB." The Ubiquitous
Librarian. The Chronicle of Higher Education, 30 Oct. 2012. Web. 06 May
Nieto, S. (2013). Language, Literacy, and Culture: Aha! Moments in Personal and
Sociopolitical Understanding. Journal of Language and Literacy Education
[Online], 9(1), 8-20. Available at Http://jolle.coe.uga.edu/wp-
"Participatory Design." EduTech Wiki. N.p., 23 Oct. 2011. Web. 11 June 2013.
Reich, Justin. "The Digital Fault Line: Power, Policy, and Leadership." Education
Week. N.p., 5 May 2013. Web. 11 June 2013.
Reilly, Erin, Henry Jenkins, Vanessa Vartabedian, and Laurel Felt. "PLAY!
(Participatory Learning and You!)." PLAY! (Participatory Learning and You!).
SlideShare, 12 Dec. 2012. Web. 02 May 2013.
Speer, Julie, Brian Mathews, and Tyler Walters. Hubs and Centers as Transitional
Change Strategy for Library Collaboration. N.p.: n.p., 18 Apr. 2013. PDF.
The Third Teacher. "Hack Class: Shape Your Ecology, Empower Learning at
SXSWedu 2013." Hack Class: Shape Your Ecology, Empower Learning at
SXSWedu 2013. SlideShare, 7 Mar. 2013. Web. 06 May 2013.
Thomas, Douglas, and John S. Brown. A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the
Imagination for a World of Constant Change. N.p.: CreateSpace, 2011. Kindle.
Wieland, Ann Marie. Children’s Work Library Reading Clubs 1903-1936. N.p.: n.p.,
Wikipedia. "Affinity Space." Wikipedia. N.p., 10 Mar. 2013. Web. 23 May 2013.