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7 Things You Should Know About the Modern Learning Commons

Educause has released another of their timely short overviews of key strategies in academic libraries.

7 Things You Should Know About the Modern Learning Commons

“The learning commons, sometimes called an “information commons,” has evolved from a combination library and computer lab into a full-service learning, research, and project space. As a place where students can meet, talk, study, and use “borrowed” equipment, the learning commons brings together the functions of libraries, labs, lounges, and seminar areas in a single community gathering place. The cost of a learning commons can be an obstacle, but for institutions that invest in a sophisticated learning commons, the new and expanded partnerships across disciplines facilitate and promote greater levels of collaboration. The commons invites students to devise their own approaches to their work and to transfer what they learn in one course to the work they do for another.”


What is it?
How does it work?
Who’s doing it?
Why is it significant?
What are the downsides?
Where is it going?
What are the implications for teaching and learning?

I’ve watched many libraries evolve this strategy from:

Computer Commons
Information Commons
Learning Commons
Knowledge Commons
What’s next?

I see the common features of the evolution and ultimate increased success seem to be:

1. Staff flexibility and abilty to deal with ambiguity
2. Relaxed rules, position descriptions, and greater staff empowerment over the day to day
3. Single service points for all clerical and directional questions
4. Partnerships with related concerns (like IT, circ, reading & writing labs, etc.)
5. Significant re-imagination of the physical space with flexibilty and openness reigning (and a better balance of carrels, tables, sofas, benches and more.)
6. Equal treatment of physical and virtual strategies
7. The addition of personal service strategies and appointment-based services and research strategies as well as relationship orientation.
8. Prioritization of certain groups with differing servce strategies (e.g. special services for post grads (masters and PhD candidates, professors, vs classroom training for undergrads, etc.)
9. Oh yeah – liberalized food and drink policies, cel phone policies and more chairs and more comfortable chairs and nicer signage . . .

I am sure there are more but that’s what I see in my travels.

Where are your ‘commons’ strategies at now?


Posted on: April 23, 2011, 7:10 am Category: Uncategorized

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  1. The Digital Learning Commons DLC is a nonprofit organization established to improve access to educational opportunities and learning resources by providing high-quality educational materials online courses and technology tools for Washingtons students teachers and parents.