Inquiry and the Learning Commons

Extending the ideas of Loertscher, Koechlin and Zwann

Essential Question

How do teacher-librarians transform their space to build an inquiry culture?



Show Notes

“If they build it, they will use it.” This means that everyone helps build both a physical and a virtual place we could term an information commons, a learning commons, a knowledge commons where ownership is held in common and construction/collaboration are constants - David Loertscher (

Extreme Makeover

The library has to be different.We have to be different, think different- retool and reinvent (Valenza) - in order to serve the 21st Century student. It has to be more than place just to store stuff, but a place to DO, CREATE, and SHARE stuff. We need to be different than other physical spaces in the library.
Teacher-librarians must embrace an expanded definition of their role and an evolvement of the library’s physical space. No longer a place just to house books, the school library must welcome media production, telecommunication events, social networking in order to develop new understandings.
  1. Refresh the Space.
    Offer Something Different (Kim Cofino) - You have to give them something different. The Learning Hub (library) has to offer a physical environment that is different than other spaces teachers and students regularly use). A movie theatre
  2. Rethink The Collection.
    Buffy Hamilton rearranged the reference section to better serve her students
    Bookshelf Shelving - Attractive like Barnes and Noble and Chapters.
    More than just books - enlarge collection to encompass peripherals (flashdrives, flip cameras, etc), audio books, ebooks, etc.
  3. Reinvent Yourself.
    The video “Mindspot the Movie: The Library as a Universe” provides a glimpse into a Danish library making big shifts in the ways professional librarians think about the “space” of the library and the role of library constituents in shaping the form and activities of the library.
  4. Realign Your Philosophy To Encompass 21st Century Learners.
    Loertscher - Flip That Library - The Paradigm Flip from the School Learning Commons
  5. Renovate The Physical Space.
    Employ flexible seating arrangements for creating, work collaboratively, and curling up with a great read.
  6. Rethink The Library As Production Centre.
    Alan November describes the teacher-Librarian as an architect. The school library is the information commons, a place to create and produce online.
  7. Reenergerize Learning to Encompass Styles and Formats Favoured by the Students.
    Incorporate new technologies to enrich students' learning.
    Of Libraries, Campfires and Value - Carolyn Foote ponders the future nature of libraries and the purpose of library services as devices become more and more mobile.
    Mobile Learning (M-Learning) opens exciting new learning opportunities. Mobile phones handheld computers, and personal digital assistants(PDA) opens up the possibility for delivery of audio material, automated polling (“press one for ..., press two for ....”), one-on-one and group discussion in real time using voice or text messaging, e-mail interactions, the delivery of text and image files and computer files as attachments, as well as displaying text and small still and moving pictures. Milrad (2002) indicates that mobile devices can support “exploratory activities” not bound to a special location; for example, on field trips, with the mobile phone being used to take notes, take photographs, download text or images and even record interviews. M-Learning also provides ready reference tools that are searchable by mobile phone, provide feedback to learners (by voice or text message or e-mail), reminders and updates for learners, and links to Internet sites and administrative services such as facilities for course registration.

Get Radical

The role of the teacher-librarian is not changing, but shifting to encompass new technologies. Today’s teacherlibrarians must initiate collaboration in instruction, learning strategies, and practice in using the essential learning skills needed in the 21st century. To continue to exert a positive and significant effect on academic achievement, teacher-librarians must understand the benefits of integrating all forms of information technologies into their school (Loertscher, 1998). Teacher-librarians no longer just serve students and educators who physically enter the library, but now are reaching out to global audience using a variety of formats and methods of delivery and emerging technologies.

(Loertscher, 2007)

Suggested Reading

21st Century School Library
Library Skunk Works: User Experience Design for the 21st Century Library - slideshow about user interface in the library