Digital Crayon: Article 6 – The Learning Commons

International School Design

Last article we discussed 21st century learning concepts and their impact on school design. Nowhere is this more relevant these days than in libraries. It seems as though every one of our schools is grappling with how to transform their libraries into a “Learning Commons”.  International School DesignIn our work and research, we have come to understand the learning commons as a place where students can learn in a variety of settings. Those settings can range from an active social space with food and comfy furniture to quiet spaces for individuals and groups. Technology is widely available to support their learning, including printing, copying and tech support. Learning Support services may also be located in the Learning Commons. This concept, while in flux, is in contrast with the notion of the Library as a repository of knowledge (i.e. books).

International School DesignThere is no recipe for the Learning Commons and each school approaches it different ways. It may be possible to co-locate a school wide feature such as a café near the library to create a social space. Think of retail bookstore design a la Barnes & Nobles. This is a case where successful commercial ventures are leading the direction of library design. Other schools are looking for an outdoor component for their Learning Commons experience.

One area where there is widespread head scratching is the role of technology in the new library. How many books should there be? What is the role of e-books, tablets and computers? Our experience is there are fairly divergent ideas about where we are heading. More on that in the next installment.

Next Post – Article 7 – Technology in Schools  Last Post – Article 5 – 21st Century Learning