MLEs – library space

AGGS Library

Last week I had the privilege of working with the staff at Auckland Girls Grammar School, where they've been working for some time on how they integrate digital technologies into their teaching and learning programmes. The strategic approach to their thinking and planning extends to the way they've re-designed their library space to provide a wonderful open 'learning centre' that provides a sense of 'flow' that embraces access to traditional paper-based books and resources through to a technology support area where students can book out netbooks and other technologies such as cameras etc. for them to use in conjunction with their learning in this space. Also included in this end of the space are rooms that can be used for audio and video work (including a green room), plus plans to introduce a video conferencing room in the near future. 

I am very impressed with what this school has done, transforming some traditional classrooms into a vibrant, multi-use and future-focused learning space that incorporates a lot of the features emerging in the literature and practice around modern learning environments – open-ness, flexibility, group space, personal space, quiet space etc.  The National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS)  suggests there are seven broad types of library space:

  1. Collection space
  2. Public electronic workstation space
  3. User seating space
  4. Staff work space
  5. Meeting space
  6. Special use space
  7. Non-assignable space (including mechanical space)

An article I read over the weekend from the NIBS provides some excellent insights into some of this thinking for school libraries as opposed to public libraries, and digs deep into where this thinking has come from and how it is manifest in modern library design. 

Of course, having the space alone won't change the experience of learning or learners in the school – which is why time and effort is also being invested professional development activities for staff, providing inspiration, support and guidance around how this space may be used to its full potential within the overall teaching and learning at the school.

The key point for me is the fact that libraries in schools must be considered as an essential part of the overall learning environment, and their use must be integrated at every level into what is happening. The ideal, in my view, is for these spaces to be used continuously, not by formal 'classes' coming to use them (although that may happen occasionally) but by individuals and groups coming to make use of the space, the resource and the facilities provided, to carry out their learning tasks.

To achieve this requires much more than clever and future-focused building design – it requires changes in the way learning itself is organised (timetables, subjects, transmissive pedagogies etc.). Hats off to AGGS for embarking on this journey, and for the innovation shown so far in how they are achieving this. 



2 thoughts on “MLEs – library space

  1. It is great to see a library learning centre showcased here.  It’s good to see the integration of digital technologies and strategic thinking in the re-design of the library learning environment as these are key elements in the creation of an effective school library.  As you say, school libraries are very different to public libraries and more akin to “special libraries” in that they provide a dedicated service to a very specific clientele (their learning community).  The mission of a school librarian is to serve and resource the curriculum and the specific needs of the learners and teachers in their school.

     As in the learner focused library development at Amesbury school in Wellington, great design that facilitates the total integration of library services into learning and teaching is really important if we are to achieve good levels of return on investment from our school libraries.  But as you say: the “space alone won’t change the experience of learning”. It is the combination of high expectations and appropriate resourcing to meet those expectations that will achieve the learning outcomes our students need.  The human resource in this equation is the most important element. 

    To be most effective, educators in the library need to be connected to and integrated in the teaching and learning team as they are at Viscount school and Ormiston Senior College , and Southland Boys High School. Schools that see their libraries as end-to-end inquiry learning support centres, iCentres or library learning commons, enable great contributions to learning through: excellent library staffing; supportive organisational structures that integrate the library learning team into all teaching and learning ; high expectations for the library programmes and services; responsive and flexible timetabling; and of course great modern learning environments.

    There is a wealth of research illustrating the impact of good school library practice on learning outcomes.  Recent research has highlighted the central importance of school library in the provision of digital citizenship curricula in achieving positive outcomes for students.

    To achieve the most valuable outcomes for students, school leaders must think expansively, have high expectations and provide enabling leadership that supports school library teams to deliver highly relevant, totally integrated service to the entire teaching and learning community.

    1. Hi Lisa – thanks for adding so wonderfully to the list of other examples and illustrations of libraries as learning centres in schools, reflecting future-focused thinking about Modern Learning Environments. It’s exciting to see these developments happening – and even more exciting to spend time with students in these spaces and watching the learning behaviours that are exhibited. Looking forward to your contribution to the CORE Ed MLE expo in CHCH on 7-8 June!

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