Keeping up with the Learning Curve: Designing Libraries for the Future

The age of technology is quickly becoming the age of information. Technology has allowed us to get information at a moment’s notice. Anything we ever wanted to know is right at our fingertips. But this information overload makes it difficult for children to navigate. In the past, people would go to libraries to get help with finding trusted information. But with new technology, how are libraries adapting to teach children how to become problem solvers, decision makers and innovative thinkers in the fast-paced world of tomorrow?

Today’s house of knowledge is more typically called a “learning commons.” These state-of-the-art establishments feature new and traditional technology and are designed to emphasize flexibility. Flexibility is so important because technology, information gathering and learning is evolving at an alarming rate. Because of changes to technology, learning has become more a more social and engaging act. Curriculums are incorporating more group projects to allow children to learn collaboratively and explore different possibilities to develop their problem solving and decision making skills. These skills are invaluable when navigating a world that’s overloaded with information and new and emerging technology. A learning commons creates a space for all of this to happen. With new technology and thoughtful design, these learning commons can connect research and media with social activity and creativity to help every child learn.

The biggest change you’ll see in these learning commons is in the space itself. Gone are the days of inflexible furniture and individual spaces. Learning commons are designed to fully embrace flexibility to create a learning environment without barriers – both physically and figuratively. Modular furniture is scattered throughout the space and can be rearranged into social collaboration areas, individual study areas, or can be completely pushed aside to create a large open spaces for whole grade or even multi-grade activities.

In a learning commons, you’ll also find “fabrication labs” or “makerspaces.” These separate spaces are filled with creative tools and resources, such as 3D printers, laser cutters, and engravers, to encourage children to experiment creatively in an open environment. By nurturing a hands-on learning environment, school districts can more fully integrate to a student-centered, technology-based learning model.

Giving the community access to all these new technologies helps bridge the digital divide and increase digital literacy. Even though it’s very common for children to have iPhones, tablets, or computers at home, there are still a lot of children in certain areas that don’t have access to technology. In fact, the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics estimates that 77% of U.S. jobs will require computer skills in the next decade. These central technology hubs do a great job of giving children equal opportunities to have access to technology to develop computer skills that they’ll most certainly need in the future.

While a lot has changed in the libraries, a lot has stayed the same. In fact, traditional books are just as important as ever in teaching children, it’s just the pathways of learning that have changed. To help navigate these changes, librarians continue to play an important role. Instead of curating a fixed collection of approved content, librarians have to guide the overwhelmed learner and help them develop their critical eye to understand how to comprehend the differences between biases and wrong information to find value in the onslaught of modern information. This fosters an inquiry-based learning environment that helps children develop important life skills.

The only challenge in creating these learning commons is that the spaces have to be able to adapt to the rapid changes in the technology fields. At Spiezle, we pride ourselves on staying up to date with the latest trends and working closely with our clients to ensure that the learning commons we create today will be able to adapt to the changes of the future. Modern learning is always on, always happening, and demands constant interconnectivity. A well designed learning commons integrates all these aspects of modern learning to create a cohesive learning environment where people want to come to learn. The spaces have to be comfortable, yet structured, to create a productive environment where visitors can learn on their own.

If you’d like to create a learning commons in your school, we can help. Our expert team of architects, interior designers, and project managers can help you create a space that will become a fixture of your community for years to come.

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