Last week I had the privilege of working with the staff at Auckland Girls Grammar School, where they've been working for some time on how they integrate digital technologies into their teaching and learning programmes. The strategic approach to their thinking and planning extends to the way they've re-designed their library space to provide a wonderful open 'learning centre' that provides a sense of 'flow' that embraces access to traditional paper-based books and resources through to a technology support area where students can book out netbooks and other technologies such as cameras etc. for them to use in conjunction with their learning in this space. Also included in this end of the space are rooms that can be used for audio and video work (including a green room), plus plans to introduce a video conferencing room in the near future.
I am very impressed with what this school has done, transforming some traditional classrooms into a vibrant, multi-use and future-focused learning space that incorporates a lot of the features emerging in the literature and practice around modern learning environments - open-ness, flexibility, group space, personal space, quiet space etc. The National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS) suggests there are seven broad types of library space:
- Collection space
- Public electronic workstation space
- User seating space
- Staff work space
- Meeting space
- Special use space
- Non-assignable space (including mechanical space)
An article I read over the weekend from the NIBS provides some excellent insights into some of this thinking for school libraries as opposed to public libraries, and digs deep into where this thinking has come from and how it is manifest in modern library design.
Of course, having the space alone won't change the experience of learning or learners in the school – which is why time and effort is also being invested professional development activities for staff, providing inspiration, support and guidance around how this space may be used to its full potential within the overall teaching and learning at the school.
The key point for me is the fact that libraries in schools must be considered as an essential part of the overall learning environment, and their use must be integrated at every level into what is happening. The ideal, in my view, is for these spaces to be used continuously, not by formal 'classes' coming to use them (although that may happen occasionally) but by individuals and groups coming to make use of the space, the resource and the facilities provided, to carry out their learning tasks.
To achieve this requires much more than clever and future-focused building design – it requires changes in the way learning itself is organised (timetables, subjects, transmissive pedagogies etc.). Hats off to AGGS for embarking on this journey, and for the innovation shown so far in how they are achieving this.