Reading this piece took me back to my days in library school, during which I balanced my LIS studies (and work in the Indiana University Libraries) with my ongoing responsibilities as an instructor for the IU School of Education. I don’t know if I ever had a learning experience in any of my LIS classes as powerful as the one I had on the day that I watched my undergraduate teacher education students in the Education Library trying to conduct research for the paper I had assigned them. I had been giving that assignment for 4 years, and I thought I had honed it to crystal clarity. Watching my students struggle to define their research topics and to locate resources in the library, I realized that my “crystal clear” assignment was virtually opaque to the average undergraduate. Very humbling. I was not yet, evidence suggested, a “library-ready instructor” (I’m much better now, of course)!
Reading the discussion of faculty perceptions of information commons projects and other library renovations aimed at enhancing the library experience for contemporary undergraduates also reminded me strongly of debates we’ve had on our own campus, where, just as in this article, commitments to renovate and improve user space have dovetailed with a review of our serial allocations (the piece does not make the critical distinction between one-time money and serial commitments, but why nit-pick?). The authors suggestions about how to pitch the information commons as an opportunity for instructional innovation – one in which classroom faculty members and librarians can collaborate closely – were also very familiar, as they are very much like those we have used here at Kansas over the past 2 years to promote use of the Collaborative Learning Environment designed by a committee with representatives from the Libraries, IT, Instructional Development & Support, and the Center for Teaching Excellence (anyone who is interested in what that looks like, and who has access to ECAR publications, can find a short discussion of the CLE in the EDUCAUSE library).
“Is the library information commons a frill, or can it be an essential tool for teaching the 21st century learner?” The answer is, of course, that it can be an essential tool if classroom faculty and librarians work together to make sure that it is used that way, and this piece gives the reader a nice way of looking at things.