Students at the centre of learning – Library Learning Commons

Students building creatively with blocks in the Westminster Woods Public School Learning Commons
School libraries have changed, as these students demonstrate in the Learning Commons at Westminster Woods PS in Guelph.

Many of us think of a library as a place to find resources for borrowing – books, movies or music. As a student you might have used the library as a quiet place to study, sitting alone at a carrel desk with your texts and notes.

Things have changed. And so have we.

Over the past couple of years the Upper Grand District School Board has been working on transitioning our school libraries into Library Learning Commons to support the changes in teaching and learning brought on by the increased use of technology, 24/7 access to digital resources, inquiry based learning, and collaborative learning environments.

A learning commons is a shared learning space that is both physical and virtual. It is also a perspective, a different way of imagining and using libraries. A learning commons perspective supports a student-centred approach to learning. It emphasizes active and collaborative engagement and encourages the co-creation of knowledge by all learners. A Library Learning Commons is a shift in thinking of a school library as a place filled with books to a discovery center that emphasizes people and doing rather than things.

There are multiple research studies that show that students who have access to a learning commons perspective are more likely to exhibit advanced student achievement and literacy development. We know that critical thinking, problem solving, creativity, and the ability to create new knowledge are essential skills for today’s students. These skills are the foundation of the curriculum and must be embedded in all aspects of the school including the Library Learning Commons.

A Library Learning Commons supports the shift in teaching and learning by…

  • providing individual, small and large group space, either physical and/or virtual, to support participatory learning opportunities
  • advancing the learning community to achieve school goals
  • cultivating effective instructional design to co-plan, teach and assess learning
  • fostering literacies to empower life-long learners and engage readers
  • facilitating collaborative engagement to cultivate and empower a community of learners
  • supporting inquiry-based learning and providing a space for student learning and innovation to be demonstrated, shared and showcased

Year of the Learning Commons 2015-20162015-16 has been named the “Year of the Learning Commons” by the Canadian Library Association, which recently published Leading Learning: The Standards of Practice for School Library Learning Commons (PDF). This document, in partnership with Together for Learning: School Libraries and the Emergence of the Learning Commons (PDF) published by the Ontario School Library Association, provide a framework for school libraries as they transition to learning commons.

Schools across North America and abroad are re-thinking, re-inventing and re-investing in their traditional library and computer lab spaces. A re-investment in school libraries as Library Learning Commons is a sustainable investment in school improvement and the future of learning.

If you have questions about Learning Commons @ UGDSB please contact Michelle Campbell, Supervisor of Library & Media Services, (519) 822-4420 x550