Learning Commons

Hello Blog Reader friends!

We are STILL going over poetry and Brod Bagert in my Learning Commons. His visit is Tuesday – we are very excited.

Speaking of Learning Commons, I have been getting quite a few questions from folks outside our district about the movement Lexington 1 is taking towards a Learning Commons (as opposed to a Library Media Center). I thought that I would dedicate this post to our process, even though I have talked about it before. Hopefully, I can offer some insight and help those of you who are headed in this direction!

First things first.

I graduated from library school in 2002. At the time (and I’m sure even now), we were taught that an excellent library media program would look something like this:

*Flexible schedule (meaning that the library media specialist is open to be available when needed by a classroom teacher. That teacher and the LMS could have planned a month long lesson together or perhaps the classroom teacher tells the LMS 5 minutes before she plans to bring a class in for research, maybe the teacher wants to send small groups of students to the library for research…whatever the case, with a flexible schedule, the LMS is typically going to be there for that teacher as added support and help).

*Collaboration. There are a number of folks to collaborate with in a school. Your classroom teachers, of course. But, also the Computer Lab teacher, the P.E. teacher, the music teacher, etc. The job of the LMS is to make work for these folks EASIER. It is true that two heads are better than one (two sets of hands are MUCH better than one set in a Computer Lab with 1st graders, for sure!).

*Expectation to work with ALL grade levels (AND/WITH THEIR TEACHER). Even kindergarten students can do research when there are enough grown ups to help.

*The LMS should be on the “cutting edge” of new technology. That means the LMS has time to explore and learn about said new technology.

SO, in 2002, as a new graduate looking for a job, that was the type of library I set out to create and in both schools where I have worked, I think I have been fairly successful.

Fast forward to the LEARNING COMMONS (great explanation at this link).

Last school year (2010 – 2011), our district administration was given David Loertscher’s book, The New Learning Commons: Where Learners Win! (Hi Willow, 2008) – there is now a new edition – FYI! A Steering Committee with Technology Integration Specialists, Library Media Specialists, and district administration was formed to explore how we could transform our district’s libraries into Learning Commons. It was decided that the first step would be for everyone to read Loertscher’s book over the summer (Principals, Library Media Specialists, Library Media Assistants, and Technology Integration Specialists). We also decided that the Technology Integration Specialists and the Library Media Specialists should start meeting together as one large group instead of having separate meetings. At these meetings, we have gone through the Learning Commons book and discussed lessons and other things we are doing in our schools that serve as good examples of things you should see in a Learning Commons.

After all the groundwork was complete, it was time to actually move into transforming our spaces. I think that is where a lot of folks have really focused this year – changing the “look” of their spaces. Furniture was moved out (or rearranged) so that there was more open space. Some of us added interesting things to our spaces like stages or areas for students to create movies, podcasts, etc. Technology Integration Specialists moved into the Learning Commons. In some cases the TIS and LMS are working together more to help classroom teachers and students. All of this is still evolving…it does not happen over night or over one school year.

That leads us up to where we are now. We are meeting this week to tweak and get suggestions for our “virtual spaces.” And, I know the transformation to Learning Commons will continue into next school year.

FOR ME (and for a number of others in my district), this has been not much more than a name change. Remember what I learned in library school 10 years ago? That is basically the same stuff that goes on in a Learning Commons. For some folks, it is a little different and for others it is a lot different. You will have the same thing in any district. I think the best thing to do, as with anything, is to TRY IT. If something doesn’t work, you can always change it and try something else. The Learning Commons model is basically BEST PRACTICE. It will take time to move into a flexible schedule and to get your teachers and others to understand exactly what should be happening in the Learning Commons, but with time, you’ll get there! Promise! I’m still working on it too!

Lexington 1 friends, please feel free to add any comments that you think would help others on this journey! I am happy to answer any questions or provide additional information, if needed!

Much love,


PS – My Spring Break is a week away. Just in case you were wondering 🙂


About Valerie Byrd Fort

I live in South Carolina. I am passionate about libraries, books, and reading. I am also a mom. This is my blog about those things.
This entry was posted in Learning, School. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Learning Commons

  1. Hey V! I just noticed on your blog at the top “I’m trying to be professional.” Makes me laugh! I LOVE it! Awesome blog. Also want to thank you for the awesome session at SCASL.
    I’m trying to be professional too. 🙂
    Namaste Hon!

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