Hello – My name is Valerie Diggs and I am here to tell you a story. My story is one of transformation, the transformation of the Chelmsford High School Library to the Chelmsford High School Learning Commons.First, let me tell you something about my background. I am a former classroom teacher who has been in the field of school librarianship since 1991. I have served at all levels, and am currently the Director of School Libraries for the District of Chelmsford, as well as the Department Head of Libraries for all grade levels. I have an almost impossible job. I began my work at Chelmsford High School in 2001. At the time, I inherited a tired library facility and even more tired library program. I had my work cut out for me. With a student population of 1850 students, and approximately 140 staff members, it took me awhile to build relationships based on trust, respect, and professional expertise. Which brings me to the question of library vs. learning commons. What is the difference and how do you get from library to learning commons??
We must create programs and spaces that support not only our professional goals, but those of the institutions that house us. This can only be accomplished by creating a “service” oriented environment that adapts and adopts new pedagogies, educational trends, and supports the larger goals of our organizations.Keep abreast of new technologies, be the first to present them to your teachers and administrators, and fight for the use of networked media. Become an online presence and expand your knowledge of information finding beyond the traditional databases to include Twitter, blogs, wikis, nings, etc. Be connected and have an online presence.Funding and budgets are tight – adapt, adopt, and survive. Evolve and grow, and you will not become obsolete. we need to move beyond what Joyce Valenza calls the grocery store model – where our students and staff come to us to just get “stuff”. We must be the place where students use the “stuff” they find to create meaning and new knowledge, to ask questions that are theirs and theirs alone. In the minds of many staff members, any computer lab can be used for research and for finding “stuff” – we need to be the places where creativity sparks new ideas and new creations.
The descriptors Learning Commons, Information Commons, Knowledge Commons, have been used in institutions of higher education for approximately ten to twelve years as these institutions began to think of new ways to attract students to work in what they formerly called libraries. Why the change? Students were being lost to the computers they brought to campus, to online resources, and to the comfort and casualness of their dorm rooms and lounge areas. Why go to the library, where they were asked to be quiet, where cell phones were prohibited, where computing was tied to desktops, and mobile devices that accessed the Internet were banned. When they were thirsty and hungry, they had to head for the cafeteria or local fast food joint.Changes needed to be made in the vision, mission, and programmatic direction of these spaces. Slowly, many schools of higher education became enamored with the idea that by creating spaces that were appealing to students, giving them a place where they felt comfortable working, could exchange ideas freely, use mobile technology, work collaboratively, and have a snack or drink when they wanted, they could attract and keep many more students.These ideas and philosophical parameters for the use of libraries has slowly trickled down to schools educating our students in grades K-12. From David Loerstcher to Ross Todd and others, the idea of a “commons” area in schools has begun to build momentum.
During this session, I will be talking about the learning commons model as defined by: Program, facility, and community (both the school community and the community in which the school resides, whether it is town, city, or another form of community). It is essential to discuss the concept of a learning commons in the context of all three:as a solid program, a facility design that works, and the support of the community are the cornerstones of a successful learning commons model.The definition of “Learning Commons” can be complex, as the terminology can mean many different things in different spaces and schools.
Program comes first. A Learning Commons is not defined solely by facility design, but largely by the programs that the space and the staff in that space provide for their users. You might ask, “If I renovate my school library, or build a new school library, can’t I call it a Learning Commons? You can. However, stop and ask yourself what really makes a school library a Learning Commons.The answer is program and function. What happens in that space, who controls what happens, and who in the community is involved provide the foundation for a true Learning Commons. Is your space the center of teaching and learning? Do students come to not only find “stuff” but collaborate, network, and produce products based on the transformation of information and data into knowledge? Is your space one that can be described as the center of community in your school? Do you contribute to school culture? Is learning happening not only with students, but for staff through professional development? Is your signage friendly and thought-provoking, or do you have rules posted for students as they enter??
fromlibraryto learningcommons Valerie Diggs Chelmsford High School Chelmsford Massachusetts
questions and challenges for today defining the future of school libraries in the times of: educational change technological change funding reductions Valerie Diggs 1/16/2010
In times of change, learners inherit the Earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists. - Eric Hoffer
why learning commons and not library? Valerie Diggs 1/16/2010
learning commons as defined by program facility school community Valerie Diggs 1/16/2010
a learning commons… is a place of teaching and learning group work collaboration professional development creativity change inquiry communication community Valerie Diggs 1/16/2010
and is not… a place designed primarily for finding information a place where students only come to use the copy machine a place where the “librarian” is in charge a place where students are greeted with rules as they enter a place where bookshelves with outdated material fill open space Valerie Diggs 1/16/2010
build your program first Valerie Diggs 1/16/2010
Participatory culture shifts the focus of literacy from one of individual expression to community involvement. The new literacies almost all involve social skills developed through collaboration and networking. Jenkins, Henry. Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century. 2006. Valerie Diggs 1/16/2010