Cross-posted from Hypermarc

As is the pattern with me (if you can describe anything I do as having a pattern), I’ve been blogging about aspects of the Hyperlinked Library for the past couple of weeks as I’ve been trying to get my head around the model.  I don’t pretend to understand the model fully now, but the nature of the model is that the Hyperlinked Library is constantly in flux.  As soon as I start to feel that I understand it fully, it will change again.  It is in “perpetual beta.”

What I do know is that there are a lot of parallels between the thinking in the Hyperlinked Library and in the thinking in education based around “21st Century Learning.”  There seems to be strong ties between the Hyperlinked Library, Library 2.0,  and the school Learning Commons.  (I make a distinction between the school learning commons and the academic learning commons because there are some essential differences in how I think about their roles and functions.)  I’m not sure if they are the same thing with different names or if there are nuances that distinguish them that I’ve yet to discover.

Here is what I know in the framework of the school Hyperlinked Library or learning commons:

  1. The physical and virtual spaces support each other in philosophy and in action.  There are aspects of the library’s role that are best served with digital tools while there are those that are best served with physical tools.  There is a recognition that there is a role for both modes of delivery of content and service and the lines between the two start to blur as they serve a common purpose.
  2. The library is participatory.  It is not simply a place where users come to retrieve items that they take away to use elsewhere.  The physical and virtual spaces are active places of learning and allow users to do that learning in what ever ways fit the learner and the content.  It is flexible allowing the space to fit the needs not forcing the user to conform to the constraints of the space.
  3. The library is user-centred first.  The space fits the needs of the user and the user is involved in how that space evolves over time.  The user contributes to the long-term development of the library through the contribution of ideas and is, where possible, given the power and opportunity to enact these ideas.  There is always tension between serving the needs of the individual and serving the needs of the larger group but the library is responsive and tries to serve both as much as possible.
  4. The school library is about learning first.  It is recognized that learning is personal and social and the above concepts of user-centredness, flexibility, and responsiveness serve that learning.  Learning is for many a process of construction, conversation and creativity.  The resources of the library, both physical and digital,  both local and remote, are there to support the learning.  They are not the be all and end all of the library.  The library does not serve the collection, the collection serves the library.
  5. The school library is simultaneously decentralized and centralized.  It is simultaneously the learning hub of the school and ubiquitous throughout all learning in all spaces in the school.  It is the biggest classroom in the school.  It also is in every classroom in the school.  It is also decentralized in it’s seamless connection to the world outside of the school.
  6. The collection is a physical and digital collection of resources that serve the school curriculum and learners learning processes and styles.  The collection is responsive to the community and the individual.  The collection is also participatory and builds on the knowledge, conversations and content that is the community.

It is important to note that technology (in the sense of computer based tools) is integral to providing learning opportunities that would otherwise be impossible without it.  Technology is not a part of the Hyperlinked Library for technology’s sake, but it is deeply embedded because it allows us to do more than we could without it.

I have been very active trying to determine what a learning commons is in a school environment.  I see a lot of similarities with the Hyperlinked Library.  Probably the biggest single issue with both is that they are incredibly hard to define.   Both are products of their environment and will look very different depending on what the needs of that environment are.  Given the differences, it can be difficult to walk into a space and say, “this is a learning commons,” or “this is a Hyperlinked Library,” and that, across the street, is not.  There are commonalities of thinking which can be perceived through action that might indicate that a certain space might fit a certain label, but there is no black and white in this distinction.

I have no doubt that my thinking will continue to evolve over the course of the coming weeks and that, if given the opportunity, I am to write this post again in November or December, it will be very different.  Perhaps I will have more confidence in my definition.  Perhaps I will have many more questions…

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