Column Editor: Donald Beagle (Director of Library Services, Belmont Abbey College, 100 Belmont – Mt. Holly Road, Belmont, NC 28012-1802; Phone: 704-461-6740).
Over the summer I was pleased to accept two related writing invitations. First, Lynn D. Lampert and Coleen Meyers-Martin asked me to author the forward for their forthcoming book, Creating a Learning Commons, due out in February 2019 from Rowman & Littlefield, (see https://rowman.com/ISBN/9781442272637/Creating-a-Learning-Commons-A-Practical-Guide-for-Librarians). Second, I was invited to be the latest interviewee for the “Library Design Thought Leaders” series, sponsored by Agati Co, (see https://www.agati.com/blog/designing-university-libraries-for-the-next-generation-of-students/). Both opportunities were very interesting, and together they motivated me to revisit the emerging research literature on LC assessment and learning space innovation. I want to mention two that stood out.
I just finished reading a chapter titled, “Analysing the Learning Commons in the Digital Age” by W. Michael Johnson (CUNY) and Michael John Khoo (Drexel). This is Chapter 7 in the recently-published (February 2018) book, R. A. Ellis and P. Goodyear (eds.), Spaces of Teaching and Learning, Understanding Teaching-Learning Practice, (see https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-10-7155-3_7). Johnson and Khoo comment, “Our approach is based on systematic observation of student populations in the field. The methodology does not seek to identify discrete causal factors between social learning and environments, only to provide empirical understandings of complementary relationships among space and acts of learning.” One of their findings, in particular, (imo), may speak to the question about Gen X and Gen Z, “…the idea that informal learning spaces are generally understood to fall into one of two pedagogical paradigms, either as a traditional / individual / transactional space or innovation / social / collaborative space. Our findings suggest that this dichotomy does not exist in the field; self and externally focused ways of learning formed an interwoven continuum across space and time.” But the authors might wish to consider that their research may have ferreted out an early marker of an important ongoing generational shift. It may be that older studies did show a valid and sharp distinction between individual transactional spaces and social collaborative spaces because those studies coincided with LC use by (primarily) Millennial and Gen X students. But this newer study may be sending an early signal that as the percentage of Gen Z students increases on campus, that individual-transactional vs. social-collaborative distinction may be blurring or fading into more of the interwoven continuum the authors describe.
The second study I want to briefly highlight is one that might otherwise easily slip under our collective radar, being a presentation paper from the Australian conference VALA 2018 Library Technology and the Future, describing outcomes from a project at the University of Wollongong Library. Titled, “Meet them where they are: Bringing the Learning Co-Op into the Digital Space,” author / presenters Kristy Newton and Courtney Shalavin, describe a planning and development approach that is rather distinctive from any I’ve seen described from sources such as the Learning Spaces Collaboratory co-hosted by NCSU and the University of Calgary. Sometimes the most significant innovations don’t come from media stars of the library world at well-resourced projects like LSC, but slide in from seemingly unlikely places like the University of Wollongong Library. I’m still digesting the implications of what Kristy Newton and Courtney Shalavin have done and describe in this paper, but I hope to have further observations in a future ATG column.
Leah was appointed Executive Director of the Charleston Conference in 2017, and has served in various roles with the Charleston Information Group, LLC, since 2004. Prior to working for the conference, she was Assistant Director of Graduate Admissions for the College of Charleston for four years. She lives in a small town near Columbia, SC, with her husband and two kids where they raise a menagerie of farm animals.