Designing the Research Commons: Classical Models for School Libraries

By Buchanan, Sarah | School Libraries Worldwide, January 2012 | Go to article overview

Designing the Research Commons: Classical Models for School Libraries


Buchanan, Sarah, School Libraries Worldwide


School libraries and media centers today are embracing the idea of the "learning commons," an approach to learning which makes use of the facility's physical openness and group meeting places to facilitate current shifts towards computer-based resource sharing and collaborative student projects. How can libraries yet to make this transition reverse a prior, mid-twentieth-century architectural bent toward segmentation of school library resources from the surrounding institution, and implement a more inclusive school library design? The open library paradigm is shown to represent a return to the principles of the earliest democratic libraries and repositories in the Western tradition. A qualitative metasynthesis of both the literature of library architecture and of the history of school libraries was undertaken in order to increase librarians' awareness of classical forms which influence design decisions into the twenty-first century.

Introduction

School librarians today perform many activities in their libraries including reference, cataloging, research instruction, reader's advisory, collection development, and facilitating group discussions. One or two school librarians may carry out these functions which in larger library institutions are assigned to dozens or hundreds of librarians. Additionally, school librarians today coordinate their work with academic teachers and with school-wide developments in curricula and learning techniques. Studying individual school libraries reveals them to serve as a kind of professional microcosm with valuable corollaries for the librarianship profession in general.

As school librarians and principals consider the role and function of school libraries in the life of an institution, an awareness of architectural elements which support desired outcomes can be valuable. In the 1990s, library administrators proposed that academic libraries reinvent their services to support student learning by providing access to electronic resources. In their view, the research commons would enable librarians to assist students in interacting and learning with digital technologies, while also provisioning space for small group work, projects using digital (and nondigital) technologies, and tutoring in various subject areas. Since the first discussions of the "learning / information commons" in that decade (Beagle, 1999; White, Beatty, & Warren, 2010), librarians continue to incorporate developments in facilities planning and investments in technology as key components, and the idea of the commons is steadily being adopted in school libraries. Bennett (2003, p. 37-38) defines "learning commons" and "information commons" separately, but in this paper, I reflect the term used by the source consulted, and also I acknowledge that both schools and school libraries are oriented toward younger (K-12) students' learning.

With the framework of the school learning commons in mind, this study seeks to integrate examples from classical libraries, from libraries of the Middle Ages, and from nineteenth-century American libraries into the discussion of a commons, with a goal of informing future design decisions in school library facilities. As in architecture more generally, library architecture may be guided by three notions which reflect the surrounding environment: structure, utility, and beauty, or as the Roman Vitruvius stated, firmitas, utilitas, venustas (Bruce, 1986). Recognizing both the role of the library as a central meeting space and the increased use of digital tools to conduct academic research, librarians and administrators continue to transform the library space into an "information commons," an environment which fulfils needs for work and study spaces while making accessible organized shelves and exhibitions of materials by adopting an open design principle. This principle is explored in a qualitative metasynthesis of research on library architecture and the evolution of school libraries, beginning prior to ancient Greece.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Designing the Research Commons: Classical Models for School Libraries
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.