Even in today’s fractured digital age, libraries rank among the most popular and well-visited places in our cultural landscape. According to a 2019 Gallup poll, on average, U.S. adults go to the library nearly once a month, making library visits “the most common cultural activity Americans engage in, by far.”
Massachusetts Native Jarrett J. Krosoczka
You Sir, are Obsolete! You are a Librarian!
What is a "Learning Commons?"
The village green, or “common,” was traditionally a place to graze livestock, stage a festival, or meet neighbors. This concept of social utility underlies the philosophy of the modern digital learning commons, which is a flexible environment built to accommodate multiple learning activities. Designing—or redesigning—a commons starts with an analysis of student needs and the kind of work they will be doing.
Why is it significant?
As a place where students can meet, talk, study, and use “borrowed” equipment, the learning commons brings together the functions of libraries, labs, lounges, and seminar areas in a single community gathering place. This face-to-face forum supports the sharing of student ideas outside the classroom, complementing the shift in pedagogy toward collaborative media and team efforts. As a bonus, the learning commons can be an ideal venue to blend face-to-face with virtual meetings, allowing the broad population of students who commute or telecommute to join their teams in project discussions.
What are the implications for teaching and learning?
The commons is a gathering space for students, but it offers a great deal to the whole academic community. Campus resources like libraries, media labs, and experimental classrooms can be clustered in a single space, enabling students to make connections between them and direct their own learning. Teachers can enjoy more flexibility in assigning projects because the commons offers spaces for work to be done either individually or collaboratively, with media support or without. Perhaps most importantly, the commons invites students to devise their own approaches to their work and to transfer what they learn in one course to the work they do for another. A well-equipped learning commons says to a student, “Here you have tools, room to collaborate, equipment, advice, research options, and access to expert information. Now it is up to you to build something worthwhile: a paper, a presentation, an education.”
In my humble opinion, librarians are one of the most underutilized resources on college/university campuses. I know this from experience. As a graduate student, I only consulted librarians when I was in a bind or hit a brick wall… hard. I would have been spared a lot of headache and heartache early on in my graduate program if I had simply asked for the help I needed. Instead of seeking assistance from a trained information professional, I stubbornly spent countless hours searching for articles when it should have only taken me 20 minutes.
When I finally broke down and asked for guidance, the librarian was super helpful and showed me how to effectively (and efficiently) conduct searches. At the time, I did not recognize that there was a science (or method) to searching, but now I know better.
At the University of Virginia where I work, there are over 200+ library staff located across the grounds with expertise in a variety of areas. For example, there are subject liaisons who are experts in English, music, physics, etc. There are also those who specialize in virtual reality, 3D printing, learning technologies, research and data services, rare materials, teaching and learning and so much more!
Becoming acquainted with your college/university librarians is not simply a nicety. Instead, it is a necessity—especially if you would like to maintain your sanity and boost your scholarship. If you ever need help managing 200+ references for your thesis (FYI: many libraries offer citation management workshops!), identifying keywords that will lead to informational goldmines, or would like to utilize materials that are not currently housed at your institution, librarians know how to address these issues and more. It is in your very best interest to become acquainted with a librarian (or some librarians) at your institution and here’s why:
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