One of the most significant partnerships I have in my school as an administrator is with our teacher-librarian (TL), Lisa Mueller. In recent years our library has been transforming into a Library Learning Commons (LLC) or simply, Learning Commons (LC). This transformation is occurring as a result of having a TL with a vision for creating a LC as well as an administration supporting this vision. The creation of a Library Learning Commons has had a major impact on the school. Earlier this year I traveled with Lisa to a meeting with school trustees who represented multiple school boards in Alberta. At the meeting we shared the journey from library to learning commons. Preparing for this gave me an opportunity to reflect on how her role has affected our school. From my perspective, the LLC has made a direct impact on student learning in four main areas:
The LC is a place to collaborate. The space has specifically designed areas for this purpose and is utilized by students, classrooms, teachers, professional learning communities and a variety of committees and departments. The one time computer lab and librarian office has been transformed into technology rich learning and collaboration spaces.
Our TL has “poured” herself into technology and is a “go to” person for this area. From troubleshooting to facilitating the integration of technology into the classroom to enhance learning, our teacher-librarian plays a significant role.
The environment in our LC is flexible, safe, welcoming and energetic. Students feel like the space is their “home away from home.” Students have shared that they feel sophisticated and motivated to learn. The LC is not so much a place as it is a perspective. The Learning Commons is a space that facilities deeper learning, not by accident, but by carefully researched design.
Our Learning Commons has helped shift the culture of the school. Its presence in the building and its focus on students, learning, wellness, technology and collaboration all spill into the rest of the school.
Our Learning Commons is the center of the building, both literally and figuratively. All other classrooms and areas of the school spread out from the LLC and are connected in some way. It is the “heart” of our school and rivals or exceeds our two gymnasiums in terms of student usage. In the morning students begin waiting for the doors to open at 7:30 a.m. At lunch nearly 200 students converge on the facility to eat, socialize, learn, discover, create and read. A conservative estimate would see approximately 500 students per day utilizing the Learning Commons, that’s 2500 students a week or 100 000 students a school year in the facility that are being exposed to what the Library Learning Commons and Teacher Librarian have to offer.
The LLC does not run itself. Lisa is part of the leadership team; she attends our Team Lead (dept heads) meetings, is on multiple school and district committees and is a resource that can be accessed by all staff at our school. Our TL is a capacity-builder, innovator, risk taker, master teacher and a learning leader. Lisa will be the first to say that we are just in the initial stage of our journey and we will never arrive at a final destination. We still have much work to do to help students meet 21st Century competencies, but the work she has started in creating an environment that supports student learning in a relatively short time has been transformative and inspiring. It is because our school and administration believe and support the role of a TL and a LLC that we have been able to see and feel the changes that have come with it.