Information and culture creation and sharing between individuals, groups and societies is reshaping due to the emergence of social networking, peer production, and non-market authors over the internet and by other technological means. The generation that has grown up with the internet values information consumption, sharing, creation and distribution in a way that directly contradicts with the traditional higher education assumptions about learning.
Libraries need to understand that they need to serve as space and resource providers that foster social interaction in physical and virtual learning spaces (Somerville & Collins, 2008). When redesigning the library one needs to have in mind that the Net Generation values engagement expressed through interactive teamwork, that learning is a remarkable social process, which occurs because of social framework that fosters learning (Brown and Duguid, 2000). Redesigning the libraries as a learning commons will bring people together not around informally shared interests but around shared learning tasks. While in information commons, the core activity is manipulation and mastery of information, in learning commons the core activity is the collaborative processes among students that turn information into knowledge through social interaction (Somerville & Collins, 2008). In his essay Libraries designed for learning Scott Bennett, Yale University Librarian Emeritus, states that learning commons must be owned by learners, must be capable of accommodating frequently changing tasks that students define for themselves rather than the information-management tasks defined and taught by library or academic computing staff. Learning commons will need to provide food service to maintain the strong connection of food and dialogue.
Information commons, learning commons and learning spaces have developed within the libraries because as Freeman, (2005) states the academic library as place holds a unique position on campus since no other building can so symbolically and physically represent the academic heart of an institution. Libraries are fundamentally about people, about how they learn, how they use information, and how they participate in the life of a learning community (Demas, 2005). When libraries realize this, they must move from information commons to learning commons which enable knowledge creation through cross-disciplinary, cross-campus, and cross-functional collaboration.
The library project designer for the Princeton’s Gehry Library noted that libraries are becoming more a space where people come to access data, and also more of a study space, research space and to some extent, a social space. The print collections represented in this library are stored in a small high-density storage space in the basement. The reasoning behind this is that information takes on electronic rather than on print form. One can find some reference books and printed journals at the entrance but otherwise the minute one enters the library one is absorbed in the new role of the building. The information desk is positioned in a way that invites consultation with librarians, while upstairs, students can find three levels of amazing light-filled study space. Other academic libraries that have not done any projects toward building user-centered spaces should worry about the silence gathering around their book stacks.
Dewey, Barbara I. (2008). Social, Intellectual, and Cultural Spaces: Creating Compelling Library Environments for the Digital Age. Journal of Library Administration, 48 (1), 85-94. Retrieved August 03, 2009, from http://www.informaworld.com/10.1080/01930820802035059
Somerville, Mary M. and Collins, Lydia. (2008). Collaborative design: a learner-centered library planning approach. The Electronic Library, 26 (6), 803-820. Retrieved August 03, 2009,
Demas, S. (2005). From the ashes of Alexandria: what's happening in the college library? Library as Place: Retinking Roles, Retinking Space, Council on Library and Information Resources, Washington, DC, available at: www.clir.org/pubs/reports/pub129/contents.html
Freeman, G.T. (2005). The library as place: changes in learning patterns, collections, technology, and use, Library as Place: Retinking Roles, Retinking Space, Council on Library and Information Resources, Washington, DC, available at: www.clir.org/pubs/reports/pub129/contents.html