Have you heard the news? Have you seen the changes? Have you experienced the difference? Where? At the library! Or you might have heard it called the learning commons or the hub or the really cool place that also has books.
So what is the learning commons all about? In somewhat of a nutshell, it is a reading, learning, researching, creating, inventive, socializing place. Does that make sense?
So what you used to think of as a library is now more of a library learning space, mixed with a lounge chill spot, adding in a creative laboratory to let your inspirations come to life. Yes, it's all of that put together!
Some have downright refused to let the library turn into this chaotic mess of a free for all. And, I have to admit, I get that. I think of them as traditionalists wanting the library to continue being that place where you get books, read, research, write and go. Others have concerns with this concept of the library and they are valid concerns. I completely understand these concerns because they are some I have myself.
I love that the library is a creative space that encourages our students to actually do. If they come in to find a book about origami or duct tape crafting they can actually create those things also. They might not have the resources at home or the money to buy the materials they need for their creative designs or inspirations. I mean, I know I don't have a 3-D printer just stashed away in my kitchen pantry, next to the cereal, at home.
I want to provide that for my students. If I can help them accomplish their creative goals, their inventive dreams, their enterprising objectives then I am all for that! What can I do to help? You need a 3-D printer? You're in luck, we just got one in our library! You have an idea for a crazy new bridge design? Hey, look, I have some legos or popsicle sticks you can probably build a model of that crazy new bridge design.
There are some fabulous librarians doing some awesome things in their libraries and I have the honor to work with them and learn from them and get inspired from them. From finger-yarn making bracelets to lego designing and even some pretty amazing things with the makey-makey creations with coding. So, if you're doubting this library commons idea, it's happening and happening well, with success in your local school libraries! And if you just take a look at the faces around the library when all of this is chaotic, free for all, if you will, is taking place you know students are loving it and soaking it all in.
I also love that students get a different view of what a library can be. Is it a place where we go to get books, read, write, study, and do research? Yes, but it's so much more than that too! It's books and reading and doing what you find in the books. It's researching and making. Studying and lounging. It's this and that and more!
Here's what I have issues with...
At the end of every school year, I send out a survey on the library to students and teachers to fill out. I ask them to rate the library and its services and to give feedback. This is important to me because I want to know how my patrons like and, yes, even dislike, their library and what I need to keep doing or maybe stop doing.
Last year, I was hit over the head surprised to read some students give feedback that they would like "for the library not to be too loud sometimes." They requested to "have quiet library" some days. Here I thought everyone was getting into the games, and the lounging and the creating but in reality there are still some, maybe not the majority but still some out there, that just want a quiet, comfy spot to read. And with that, I feel like, I still need to provide that quiet place to do work as well. So my issue is, how do I do both in my small space? My library is gorgeous but not huge in square footage. If it's fun and creative on one end of the library it's not really quiet on the other end either. Our book club and writing club meet in the mornings and sometimes we need a quiet library for those meetings as well.
Temporarily, the only way I've figured around this issue, is to assign certain days out of the week as "Quiet Library" days, meaning only quiet reading, working, and lounging during those days. Yeah, this kind of bums me out too but I'm fresh out of ideas for this issue. If anyone has a better solution, I'm all ears!
Also, a great librarian colleague of mine brought up a concern about deeper learning and the lack thereof. With all of the gadgets and games and technology surrounding our students can it all be more of a distraction and a hindrance to learning and getting work done. I hate to admit it, but I've seen it in my library. At one table, it's a group of kids making some cool things on the library iPads and at the table next to them is a student trying to finish his assignment due that day. Even the pressure of the due date looming doesn't affect his need to focus. He's staring at the group of kids having their iPad fun while his work goes incomplete. I figure I'll move him to another area to help him get his work done but where? Everywhere, there's a game of chess, a group lounging and chatting, a group creating and designing, where can I move him to that he won't be distracted. Yeah, you might think it may just be one kid with severe distraction problems but I see it more often than not. With iPads and computers and personal devices and games and just so much fun all around the focusing on student work is a bit hard to do.
So now what do I do? Again, I want to have that learning commons with all the creative energy but I also want and need to have that quiet space for readers and workers as well. So what to do? What to do? If anyone out there has come up with some great ideas to have a happy medium of both in a not so big but beautiful middle school library, please share them with me!
Conflicted Librarian in Library Commons Land