Warning message

ALA Connect User logins are disabled for a temporary "gray-out" period, to prevent new posts while we upgrade into the New Connect. This gray-out period will begin on March 26th, and the new site will be launched on April 25th.

Users can use Search to view public content. Logins will be reinstated and users can create new posts, upload files, etc. post launch.

Thank you for your patience in cooperation. Check out training resources and schedule at:

Or contact Julianna Kloeppel for training or Pam Akins with questions/concerns.
Go to:
Online Doc
Meeting Request
Amy Fry (non-member)'s picture

Notes from MW 2012 Discussion Forum on the Creative Learning Commons

Notes from the MARS Local Systems & Services Midwinter 2012 Discussion Forum:
The Learning Commons and the Academic Library: Using Emerging Technologies and New Partnerships to Build Student Success

Sunday, January 22, 2012, 4-5:30pm

featured speaker: Carrie Donovan, Head, Teaching & Learning, Indiana University Libraries

handout: Carrie's handout, with bibliography, is attached to this online document


In her opening remarks, Carrie talked about the idea of form following function in the Learning Commons and reminded attendees that “libraries put the ‘fun’ in function.” It doesn’t matter what the space is called (some libraries are using terms like “sandbox” and “information arcade”). Rather, Carrie encouraged us to think first about what kinds of user behavior we wanted to see happen and then create a learning commons that makes students think, “This is a place I can learn” (rather than what one student at Indiana University thought when, while looking at that library’s information commons, he asked her, “Is that a bank?”).

Over forty attendees got into four groups to discuss the following themes:

  • Form & Function
  • Direction & Discovery
  • Collaboration & Motivation
  • Collections & Connections

After the small group discussions, the large group reconnected to share notable points from each small group’s discussion.


-          Multimedia labs w/video editing software

-          Digital text analysis programs

-          Scanning equipment for the public

-          iPads and mobile technology (checkoutable)

-          staffing models that mirror consultant approach

-          20 hour/week student workers in the library (for tuition credits)

-          Committed, ongoing student advisory board is a good way to get student input (making sure the students have a means of communicating directly/regularly to library dean). Ameet Doshi from Georgia Tech (ameet.doshi@gatech.edu) can answer any questions about student advisory groups.


-          Different, evolving roles for librarians

-          Peer model of research assistance (librarians as trainers, rather than direct service providers)

-          IT, writing, research – staff working together

-          Shared administrative structures would eliminate silos

-          Info Commons staff are “learning support professionals” EVEN LIBRARIANS

-          Shared service points – referrals, one-desk, multi-desk solution?

-          Technology! iPads, mobile reference with iPhones, media production room, online tutoring, software availability in special rooms


-          Signage – must be the best! But it’s difficult to agree upon.

-          More general signage/labels (e.g. “ask” “ask here”) is best.

-          Different types of signs – touchscreen, digital, etc. This allows students to get help based on the type of question/need they have.

-          Mall signage – “YOU ARE HERE”

-          Students don’t read signs, but perhaps they would pay attention to mall signage.

-          Service points: what is better - Many desks? Shared service points? At least make sure the desks are nearby.


-          With revised library space, parners will emerge. Libraries should maintain focus on mission and student learning, while embracing new partners/models.

-          Partners include: writing centers, digital humanities labs, teaching centers, adaptive technology centers, language labs, etc.

-          Newly designed space cannot change culture, but it can demonstrate expected behavior

-          Information commons are not intended to be quiet, but sometimes people expect them to be.

-          Recommended furniture  = mediascape pods from Steelcase\

Collaboration & Motivation – additional notes

David Nutty (University of Southern Maine) and Judy Solberg (Seattle University), among others, made valuable contributions to the “Collaboration and Motivation” discussion group.

Nutty shared the exciting fact that his university had just opened its learning commons the Monday prior to the conference. Tutoring, writing center assistance, group study room management and reference were being offered at a combined service desk.

They were offering virtual tutoring using AskOnline and web-based group study room scheduling. They also maintain a small group of computers with enhanced, specialized software in addition to a larger number of computers with the typical suite of software.

Judy Solberg informed the group that Seattle University’s academic support services and public services librarians had been working together for four or five years and hold regular meetings. They maintain one service desk for all services, though it is not regularly staffed by a librarian – instead, the reference librarian on duty carries an iPhone and can be called to come out and meet with students wherever their questions take them. Other than a media support specialist, they did not have funding for additional staffing when they opened their learning commons, but they did have money to hire eight graduate students. Solberg suggested that new professional roles might be developing for reference librarians because our current model – an expert available at all times to provide one-on-one assistance – is perhaps not sustainable. Instead, the learning commons model might cause us to move more towards providing peer services for all areas (writing assistance, tutoring, and research assistance) with full-time librarians and learning support professionals supervising, training, and managing these services.

The conversation among this group revealed real curiosity about service models (is it better to have one service point or multiple service points?), staffing (how do we break down silos and territorial tendencies and provide for co-management and cross-communication between information technology, academic support and reference services?), and the use of technology in the learning commons. Lots of the  participants’ libraries offered iPad and laptop checkout, media production spaces, and online question tracking, though virtual learning and tutoring services and spaces that complement the developing physical spaces of our learning commonses are still, perhaps, to come. The group also returned to the idea that it is necessary to begin with a student perspective.


InfoCommonsDFHandout_Midwinter2012.pdf703.74 KB