What is a Library Learning Commons?

A learning commons is a whole school approach to building a participatory learning community. The library learning commons is the physical and virtual collaborative learning hub of the school. It is designed to engineer and drive future-oriented learning and teaching throughout the entire school. Inquiry, project/problem-based learning experiences are designed as catalysts for intellectual engagement with information, ideas, thinking, and dialogue. Reading thrives, learning literacies and technology competencies evolve, and critical thinking, creativity, innovation and playing to learn are nourished. Everyone is a learner; everyone is a teacher working collaboratively toward excellence.

Some metaphors for the school library learning commons might be: learning laboratory, idea factory, studio or even “great room” in the school and community.


A Learning Commons is a common or shared space that is both physical and virtual. It is designed to move students beyond mere research, practice and group work to a greater level of engagement through exploration, experimentation, and collaboration. A Learning Commons is more than a room or a website. A Learning Commons allows users to create their own environments to improve learning. A Learning Commons is about changing school culture, and transforming the way teaching and learning occur.

(Loertscher, Koechlin and Rosenfeld, 2012, 1)

Why a Learning Commons Now?

Many school leaders in Canada already recognize the library learning commons as a sustainable investment in learning for the future.

Focus on Learning – “We would like to make the Learning Commons the “Hub” of learning at Keeler School. We would like to examine ways to make sure that if a parent steps into the Learning Commons, they are immediately struck by the learning that takes place at Keeler School as a whole.” UNFURL – Unraveling new frontiers – Utilizing real learning Derek Rakowski, Principal of Keeler School, Calgary, Alberta (Rakowski, 2013, 1)

Focus on the Learner – “The learning commons philosophy is a means of increasing student engagement and improving student achievement. The learning commons promotes personalization, inquiry, and the integration of technology through the implementation of innovative curricular design and assessment. This space, which is a blend of physical and virtual environments, transforms teaching and learning by allowing both staff and students to co-create knowledge. Within the learning commons, technology supports the construction of new understandings by the learner rather than the learner passively consuming information.” Learning commons implementation guide Calgary Board of Education, Alberta (Faber, 2013, 4)

Focus on Pathways – “Offering these differentiated, multidisciplinary approaches to learning will provide pathways for all students to explore, grow, and learn and will help develop an understanding and respect for each other’s strengths and interests, which will transfer to the world beyond the walls of Edgewood. Being immersed in this environment in elementary  school can only allow for broader, and perhaps clearer, choices for high school and postsecondary endeavours for our 21st century learners.” The creation of the Edgewood experiential lab and learning commons for the 21st-century learner Tamara Mitchell, Principal, and Fran Potvin-Schafer, Teacher-Librarian, Edgewood Public School, Toronto, ON. (Mitchell and Potvin-Schafer, 2012, 21)

Focus on Collaboration – “The Library is being transformed into a Learning Commons. This means basically an open learning area with access to technology and access to wireless internet. It’s a learning area for everyone including teachers and students. Our teacher-librarian collaborates with other teachers to plan lessons and helps teachers to develop best practices and strategies. She has an open door policy for all students……. Our learning commons is a happening place.” View from my school Sheila Morissette, Principal, Fraser Heights S.S., Surrey, BC. (Morissette, 2014, 1)

Focus on Creativity – “Within the interactivity of today’s information environment the library learning commons is naturally positioned to provide learning experiences that take critical thinking to the next level through creativity.” By the Brooks Anita Brooks Kirkland, Consultant for K-12 Libraries, Waterloo Region DSB, Ontario. (Brooks Kirkland, 2013, 1)

Focus on Innovation – “The Learning Commons is the starting point – it’s the nerve center of a school, the place where learning isn’t about collecting dots but rather connecting them through cross-curricular partnerships that boost critical thinking, problem-solving, decision making and communicating abilities. It’s our experimental lab: a place where kids and adults can take risks and experiment with new ways of doing school. A place where educational research can be played with and developed into programs that not only impact students but also provides “road maps” for teachers: “this is what innovation looks like to us in the Learning Commons, this is how it engages students and this is how you can implement facets of it in your own classroom.Learning the now Gino Bondi, District Principal of Specialty Programs, Vancouver School Board, BC. (Bondi, 2012,1)

Focus on Opportunity – When staffed by qualified professionals trained to collaborate with teachers and engage students meaningfully with information that matters in the real world, school libraries become sophisticated 21st century learning environments that offer equal opportunities for achievement to all students, regardless of the socioeconomic or education levels of the community. School libraries work! (Scholastic, 2016)

What will this document do to help your school get started?