When I began working on my Masters from the University of Iowa's School of Library and Information Science I called the library a library. As I worked my way through the program, I made new discoveries and connections. Realizing I wanted the library to be recognized as more than a place that housed books, I began to call it the Media Center. What a leap! The time has come to make another leap. The learning commons is becoming a popular catch phrase to describe libraries that act as a meeting place where students can collaborate, have access to tools, printers and other resources, or find a quiet space to work.
Perhaps it is time for a very brief overview of the role of the modern school librarian. As schools have transformed, the role of the Teacher Librarian has also changed. They are specially trained professionals in K-12 education. As classrooms replace textbooks with online resources it is of critical importance continue to emphasize that student centered instruction is more important than ever. In order to meet the diverse learning styles of our students, all educators must also consider cultural backgrounds, interests, abilities, and native languages when introducing material and assigning projects. Teacher Librarians follow the recommendations put forth in the AASL Learning Standards. Teacher librarians also accept responsibility for collaborating with classroom teachers to ensure that the Literacy Standards and the 21st Century Technology and Employability Skills outlined in the Iowa CORE are realized. Teacher Librarians also provide teachers and students with information regarding online resources and support using them in the classroom.
Last fall Charles City High School added a Student Commons to establish a place where students could work, purchase coffee or cookies, collaborate, and relax. A Learning Commons supports this mission in addition to complementing the shift in pedagogy toward collaborative media projects, technology resources, books, miscellaneous supplies, and the addition of a makerspace established to encourage inquiry learning and exploring STEM opportunities. The University of Iowa Learning Commons is an impressive space containing formal and informal meeting areas, meeting rooms, information centers, and a coffee shop. There are no books. Our print collections will not be relocated. We do not have an expansive space to work with. However, I do embrace the idea of our library as a Learning Commons.
Our library supports teachers and students, it is a space in which students can collaborate, ask questions of one another and engage with the Teacher Librarian or Library Associate. The Media Center/Learning Commons is a place where students can become actively engaged in the learning process. So the question remains. Learning Commons or Media Center? Pundits suggest that modern flexible furnishings and physical organization are particularly important aspects of a Learning Commons, as spaces are often designed to be rearranged by users according to their needs. Like most educators, I maximize the resources I have to work with. My area is not easily rearranged but it can be done. Decision made, Learning Commons it is.