If you build it they will come…if you ask them what they’d like!

Our library space changed dramatically over the summer, and it occurred to me that I had never really given our staff, as a whole, my version of what the heck happened!  At a recent staff meeting I had an opportunity to present my vision of what the North Surrey Library was becoming. It afforded me a great opportunity to reflect and articulate where I believe the library is heading.

I have been a librarian for a long time, longer that I will admit here. I love libraries. I love everything they stand for, their long and noble history, and their prospects for the future.  Recent profound changes both in information technology and education means that the library is transforming itself, once again, and through the Learning Commons we are poised to continue to serve our students and remain as important players in the information management world.

The library was characterized by a highly managed and organized collection, explicit control of circulation and acquisitions, required specific, and often excluding, behaviors and was a place where knowledge was consumed. In contrast, the learning commons is concerned more with the connections that are made within our space, has less traditional control over the information and the infomation seeker, allows more diverse behaviors and encourages the creation of knowledge.

Importantly, I counseled our staff not to panic, because in my eyes what the learning commons stands for is really no different, or less noble, than the library. Call it what you want, but providing individuals with an opportunity to better themselves, providing groups with opportunities to create better communities, providing free access to information for all users and maintaining our place as a vital part of formal and informal education are lofty goals to which we have long aspired. These have not changed.

So the learning commons is ours to create, and I was keen to learn what our staff would like the space to become. Here are some of the fabulous ideas from the North Surrey staff:
More of a Starbucks atmosphere
A source for technology and support
A venue for team teaching
A location for sharing
A creative environment for exploration and risk taking
A showcase for the display of student work
A place for structured tutoring for students
Human library – “borrow” and expert
A place to link curriculum to real life

I have my work cut out for me, but by working together and constantly and creatively pushing the boundaries of our beautiful space, figuratively and literally, we will create a wonderful Library and Learning Commons for North Surrey Secondary.

Welcome to the NEW North Surrey Library and Learning Commons

Our Library has been transformed!

We’ve gone from this…


To this…

This  is a story of a library reinventing itself. This is, of course, what libraries have always done. Libraries, like Mozart and Shakespeare and the wheel, are a good idea, a classic idea, and because of that they have quite successfully adapted themselves many times during their long and distinguished history. This remaking into a Learning Commons is a reflection of the era where libraries now find themselves. Information has been transformed from what was essentially a very controlled resource, we will organize it and control your access to it, to one that is ubiquitous, sometimes frustratingly comprehensive, and accessible to a degree we could only imagine short years ago.

 This shift is colliding with equally dramatic changes in education. The long-held industrial model of education lacks meaning and effectiveness in a world where so much information is readily available, where new and more dynamic skills will fuel this new century, where the new technologies are transforming how we learn and interact, and where students of all ages have come to expect something very different.  

Enter the library, which has always been an important player in education, whether it be formal or informal, individual or institutionalized. I have always operated under the understanding that the library was a place that bridged the gap between an individual or institution and the information they required. The Library has always been more than a room full of books, and the Learning Commons we are now imagining will be more than a room full of computer technology. Bridging the information gap, providing service and access, establishing an environment where learning can take place, and managing our ever expanding resources and skill-set is a lofty goal for the Learning Commons, yet one that has been well established by that good idea, the library. This is the ongoing story of the North Surrey Secondary Learning Commons.