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From Library to Learning Commons

from library to learning commonsValerie Diggs

Chelmsford High SchoolChelmsford Massachusetts

Hello My name is Valerie Diggs and I am here to tell you a story. My story is one of transformation, the transformation of the Chelmsford High School Library to the Chelmsford High School Learning Commons.

First, let me tell you something about my background. I am a former classroom teacher who has been in the field of school librarianship since 1991. I have served at all levels, and am currently the Director of School Libraries for the District of Chelmsford, as well as the Department Head of Libraries for all grade levels. I have an almost impossible job.

I began my work at Chelmsford High School in 2001. At the time, I inherited a tired library facility and even more tired library program. I had my work cut out for me. With a student population of 1850 students, and approximately 140 staff members, it took me awhile to build relationships based on trust, respect, and professional expertise.

Which brings me to the question of library vs. learning commons. What is the difference and how do you get from library to learning commons??1questions and challenges for today defining the future of school librariesin the times of:

educational changetechnological changefunding reductions

Valerie Diggs 10/21/2009We must create programs and spaces that support not only our professional goals, but those of the institutions that house us. This can only be accomplished by creating a service oriented environment that adapts and adopts new pedagogies, educational trends, and supports the larger goals of our organizations.

Keep abreast of new technologies, be the first to present them to your teachers and administrators, and fight for the use of networked media. Become an online presence and expand your knowledge of information finding beyond the traditional databases to include Twitter, blogs, wikis, nings, etc. Be connected and have an online presence.

Funding and budgets are tight adapt, adopt, and survive. Evolve and grow, and you will not become obsolete. we need to move beyond what Joyce Valenza calls the grocery store model where our students and staff come to us to just get stuff. We must be the place where students use the stuff they find to create meaning and new knowledge, to ask questions that are theirs and theirs alone. In the minds of many staff members, any computer lab can be used for research and for finding stuff we need to be the places where creativity sparks new ideas and new creations.

2In times of change, learners inherit the Earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists. - Eric Hoffer

What word is key here? Learners, of course. Once we consider ourselves Learned we are obsolete. Time to retire. The same for students. Our goal must be to make them learners for life.Survival in these difficult economic times means to adapt to and adopt change without change our profession, our spaces, and ourselves will become obsolete.

Change is up to you, whether you move simply move some furniture and shelving, or start from the ground up to re-define what you do every day. Change takes effort and hard work, but is not impossible. why learning commons and not library?Valerie Diggs 10/21/2009The descriptors Learning Commons, Information Commons, Knowledge Commons, have been used in institutions of higher education for approximately ten to twelve years as these institutions began to think of new ways to attract students to work in what they formerly called libraries. Why the change? Students were being lost to the computers they brought to campus, to online resources, and to the comfort and casualness of their dorm rooms and lounge areas. Why go to the library, where they were asked to be quiet, where cell phones were prohibited, where computing was tied to desktops, and mobile devices that accessed the Internet were banned. When they were thirsty and hungry, they had to head for the cafeteria or local fast food joint.

Changes needed to be made in the vision, mission, and programmatic direction of these spaces. Slowly, many schools of higher education became enamored with the idea that by creating spaces that were appealing to students, giving them a place where they felt comfortable working, could exchange ideas freely, use mobile technology, work collaboratively, and have a snack or drink when they wanted, they could attract and keep many more students.

These ideas and philosophical parameters for the use of libraries has slowly trickled down to schools educating our students in grades K-12. From David Loerstcher to Ross Todd and others, the idea of a commons area in schools has begun to build momentum.4learning commons as defined by



school community

Valerie Diggs 10/21/2009During this session, I will be talking about the learning commons model as defined by:

Program, facility, and community (both the school community and the community in which the school resides, whether it is town, city, or another form of community). It is essential to discuss the concept of a learning commons in the context of all three:

as a solid program, a facility design that works, and the support of the community are the cornerstones of a successful learning commons model.

The definition of Learning Commons can be complex, as the terminology can mean many different things in different spaces and schools.

5a learning commons is a place of teaching and learninggroup workcollaborationprofessional developmentcreativitychangeinquirycommunicationcommunity

Valerie Diggs 10/21/20096and is not a place designed primarily for finding informationa place where students only come to use the copy machinea place where the librarian is in chargea place where students are greeted with rules as they enter a place where bookshelves with outdated material fill open space

Valerie Diggs 10/21/20097build your programfirst Valerie Diggs 10/21/2009Program comes first.

A Learning Commons is not defined solely by facility design, but largely by the programs that the space and the staff in that space provide for their users. You might ask, If I renovate my school library, or build a new school library, cant I call it a Learning Commons? You can. However, stop and ask yourself what really makes a school library a Learning Commons.

The answer is program and function. What happens in that space, who controls what happens, and who in the community is involved provide the foundation for a true Learning Commons. Is your space the center of teaching and learning? Do students come to not only find stuff but collaborate, network, and produce products based on the transformation of information and data into knowledge? Is your space one that can be described as the center of community in your school? Do you contribute to school culture? Is learning happening not only with students, but for staff through professional development? Is your signage friendly and thought-provoking, or do you have rules posted for students as they enter??

8teaching and learning

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Valerie Diggs 10/21/200911events

Listening LunchesValerie Diggs 10/21/2009

Poetry SlamJava RoomValerie Diggs 10/21/200913

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just hanging outValerie Diggs 10/21/200916Participatory culture shifts the focus of literacy from one of individual expression to community involvement. The new literacies almost all involve social skills developed through collaboration and networking.

Jenkins, Henry. Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century. 2006.

Valerie Diggs 10/21/2009facility design

driven by programValerie Diggs 10/21/2009biblioTECH Consulting

library renovation committee

in-house expertise

plan . plan . planValerie Diggs 10/21/20091910/21/2009Valerie Diggs

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Valerie Diggs 10/21/2009putting it back togetherValerie Diggs 10/21/2009

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35from the old to the new

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54our programs continueValerie Diggs 10/21/2009Common Grounds Caf

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inauguration january 2009

Valerie Diggs 10/21/2009poetry slam

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wellness fair

professional development

Valerie Diggs 10/21/2009the learning commons beyondspace

Valerie Diggs 10/21/2009with Senator FargoValerie Diggs 10/21/2009

Library Legislation Day at the State House in BostonValerie Diggs 10/21/2009changes in technology Before