Thursday, June 24, 2010

The future learning hub

If the library is the current learing hub, what will the learning hub be in the future? Will the library be at the centre of a giant student mall with services, shops, cafes and IT centres instead of Myer and K-Mart?

I've just been to a workshop on how to create a future learning hub that the library will be a part of. Of course I think the library should BE the learning hub but then I'm a library evangelist. The participants of this workshop were mostly big wigs so I'm not sure how I wangled my way in but it was interesting to look outside my little bubble world for a while. What I discovered (as if I didn't already know) is that the library is way ahead in all the areas that were being discussed; already providing the kinds of spaces students like and already experimenting with new ideas for the future. Research was shown that students like a safe and secure, scholarly space to work individually or in groups, that is clean, light, quiet but not too quiet and with support available. Does such a place exist? Yes! It's the library! And what do you know? The library is always full because people like studying there for all those reasons. It seemed to me like the other participants hadn't been to the library or didn't know we already have a learning hub (aka. the library). I guess they just wanted to take a bigger picture view, get everyone up to speed and see it in the context of the future of education, learning and changing learner demographics (seems reasonable).

There was some discussion about the kinds of behaviour we want our hub to encourage. Some of the ideas were collaboration, spirit of enquiry, peer-to-peer learning, communication, etc. There was some confusion about how that translates into physical space. Library people know all about this. For example, if you want to create quiet areas you have individual desks and if you want noisy group areas you have comfortable, flexible, group seating. We have group study rooms for collaborative work, we have silent rooms or super quiet stuff. We recently introduced a new space called 'create space' (see photo above) that has an interactive teamboard, a data projector, 7 computers, 2 whiteboard walls, funky desks on wheels and really funky chairs. I wrote a post about it a while ago. The room encourages collaboration, is usually a bit noisy but always full by groups practicing their presentations, individual studiers, the lot! Interestingly we find students are very good at self managing these spaces. For example, too much noise is frowned upon by neighbouring students and quickly squashed or reported to us. I think this happens when students appreciate a space enough to feel ownership or pride in the space. If we provide spaces students 'like' they'll care enough to want to keep it 'nice'.

Random thoughts: does the campus need to be 'sticky'? should we be designing for the ones for whom it is sticky rather then everyone? e.g. full-time students rather than part-time? How do we create a welcoming atmosphere while providing a secure, managed space? How can it be sustainable?

I look forward to experimenting with new spaces, furniture, design etc. as we continue on our path to the Library of the Future!


  1. Overnight I thought a bit about the "stickiness" issue. Maybe "sticky" is the wrong word and something like attractiveness should be looked at. I don't think it is right that we should just offer and deliver a tertiary education at universities. That is pretty lame. When I think back on my under-grad years what I remember are the experiences, not so much the pedagogical learning. I think the students here are saying that at UTS we don't really offer much in that way. We cannot do what campuses like Sydney, UNSW or even Macquarie do because of our inner city location, but I think we should at least offer more in terms of facilities, services and exposure to culture that is aimed primarily at or dedicated for our students (not so much the general community). Maybe we can go deeper with that kind of offering than the other universities do. Sure, not all students will take advantage of it, but those just here for the quick qualification will miss out on a big experience that in some ways forms a right of passage.

  2. Ohhh lovely post again SophieMac! Despite only being a recent librarian, there just seems to be so much of this that we already do. Students love coming to us because we provide wonderful spaces that are monitored, safe, clean and well thought out. There is always someone around to help you with a problem and staff really enjoy engaging with students. This is why when I studied here I used the Library and not the other computer labs. I know there are still a lot of improvements we can make - that's what so exciting about the Library of the future.