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Information Commons in the Wild: Lessons from the Field

June 30, 2010

The Information Commons was the theme of CRD’s 2010 spring conference. The program began with a presentation by Scott Bennett, who has written and consulted widely on library space planning. As one of the founders of Project Muse, Bennett fostered some of the changes in information use that are driving innovations in the use of library space.

In his keynote session, Dr. Bennett noted that the concept of a learning commons is not just about space, it’s a philosophy. He posed some pivotal questions that libraries should consider prior to undertaking an information or learning commons project. The systematic gathering of data about student behavior and about how students learn being the most important question to ensuring the creation of a successful information or learning commons. He suggests that this data will reveal that librarians should stop thinking of students as information consumers. Instead, we should think of students as learners. The library focus would then be on accommodating the learning needs of students, and reference librarians would see their role as collaborators with student learners.

The afternoon session consisted of a panel of administrators who have already implemented an information/learning commons at their libraries or who are in the process of building one representing a variety of size and type of institution. The panel included: Don Smith, Dean of the Library at the University of Louisiana at Monroe; Katherine Furlong, Associate Director for Access & Administrative Services at Lafayette College; Sally Kalin, Associate Dean for University Park Libraries, Pennsylvania State University; and Anuradha Vedantham, Director of the Weigle Information Commons at the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Bennett served as panel moderator.

One attendee commented, “The workshop gave me a lot to think about. I especially appreciated the idea of using what you have – but using it better – rearranging + improving facility to make it more learner-centered.”

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