Thursday, November 06, 2008

What is Common about Learning Commons?

In addition to reading The Tower and the Cloud, I've been looking at The Desk and Beyond: Next Generation Reference Services. The first essay by Tim Daniels and Caroline Cason Barratt, "What is Common about Learning Commons," discusses a survey the authors conducted. They received 147 responses to the survey which consisted of seventeen commons-related questions.

I encourage you to check out the full article as I shouldn't summarize all of their interesting findings here. Thinking about my own experience, I had to comment on at least a couple of things. Several of the responses surprised me a bit, particularly in the response to the challenges facing the learning commons. Respondents could indicate more than one category in this area:
Challenges in the Learning Commons
27.7% Clashing philosophies among partners
19.7% Increased noise
16.1% Funding facility/training
13.9% Increased traffic
7.3% Loss of library identity
6.6% Clashing philosophies among librarians
My first impression is that I once again realize how fortunate we are to have a friendly, productive relationship with IT. I know I've said it on this blog and you've probably heard me say it a dozen times if you've seen me give a presentation, but effective collaborations are key to a successful commons. Seeing that 27.7% of the respondents cite clashing philosophies with partners (and I'm guessing more often than not, partners like IT), reminds me how lucky we are that both groups here feel comfortable communicating and even criticizing constructively when needed.

I have to wonder how increased traffic could be considered a challenge. Yes I realize that respondents were probably thinking in terms of lines of people waiting for help, computers, chairs, and other resources. That is a challenge. I still think that's in the "good problem to have" category. I also think that about noise, but I suspect I'm in a minority there.

Funding and training are rather obvious issues. What surprises me here is that 100% of us didn't check that box.

All of these issues center around change, but I think loss of identity and a clash of philosophies among librarians could particularly be attributed to a fear of change. I realize that's not always the case, but it does concern me to hear about resistance to bringing in campus partners like IT (there's that loss of identity) and fighting internally over losing battles like food policy (there's those clashing philosophies among librarians).

What other challenges are we facing in the commons environment?

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