In a “Knowledge Quest” blog post, entitled “6 Active Learning Spaces Your Library Should Have,” Diana Rendina detailed how active learning encourages students to “engage in activities, such as reading, writing, discussion, or problem solving that promote analysis, synthesis, and evaluation of class content.” While Rendina was writing specifically from a school library point of view, public libraries can also take a great deal of advice from this information, both for students and other patrons.
The first three spaces all deal with groups of different sizes. Being able to work with a group is important for projects, whether you’re working on a class assignment, a new marketing strategy, or other discussions. Rendina suggests having several different ways of sharing information, like dry erase boards and technology sharing options. Working in a library, I’ve seen the use of these tools prove to be highly useful for collaboration. The importance of flexible furnishing is also stressed. Larger spaces also make it possible to hold functions and special events for big groups. Even if you don’t have a large meeting room, if you have easily movable furnishings, you can make this kind of event possible in another area of your library.
Technology isn’t really optional anymore. Too many parts of life depend on Internet access for libraries not to be providing technology to patrons in one way or another. In a 2013 Pew Internet study, 77 percent of survey respondents reported technology access as an important library service. As Rendina points out, many tech options can be offered from desktops, laptops, and tablets to specialty software that allows for creation and learning. As more technology is readily available, libraries need to continue to evolve and provide access to things patrons may not be able to access as easily, like specialty software and hardware.
The fifth area that Rendina cites is a quiet place. Often when I’m working on the public service desk, I’ll be asked where a quiet place can be found. Many people need a more silent environment to focus on their work, and when you have several places that focus on group meetings, you need to also try to provide for the person working on his/her own. The Pew Internet Study found that quiet spaces were important to respondents even while some libraries have become a bit more boisterous over time.
Finally, makerspaces are recommended as an important active learning space. I work in a department that has two rooms specifically for making. They provide fantastic opportunities for using fabrication machinery and attending hands-on learning activities; however, makerspaces don’t have to be a permanent structure. Any meeting room or open area can become a makerspace for a few hours. Activities can be just about anything—coding to coloring to sewing to 3D printing. Makerspaces can provide something for any interest.
The beauty of the library is that it can be many things to many people. Providing a variety of spaces to your patrons will help you meet their needs and have many happy returns.