Oilfields High School: Learning Commons Library

By Librarian Mrs Nadine Russell

I find myself working towards a goal that I do not fully understand. The goal I speak of is to turn our library into a Learning Commons. This goal has been brought forward by Alberta Education. Many students, teachers, parents and community members question what this transition is even about. So I shall explain…

“A learning commons is a common, or shared, learning ‘space’ that is both physical and virtual. It is more a perspective than a “place.” A learning commons perspective supports a student-centred approach that emphasizes active and collaborative engagement and encourages the co-creation of knowledge by all learners.

A learning commons provides individual, small and large group space, either physical and/or virtual, for instruction, social/collaborative learning, and production and presentation. It also promotes global and cultural understanding as students collaborate with their local and broader community to investigate and create solutions to complex problems.
Finally, the virtual aspect of a learning commons (a VLC) promotes more efficient use of technology for creation and sharing of knowledge as well as enabling 24/7 access to resources and shared collaborative space for all students.
Research shows that students who have access to quality school library services, which a learning commons perspective enables, are more likely to exhibit advanced student achievement and literacy development”.


After doing much research and reading, I found that my understanding was not a lot clearer. So I turned to some Learning Commons Facilitators throughout Canada and the USA who were further along in the transition and finally clarity and I saw a path forward.

The path…as this world moves forward in technology at a pace unprecedented in the history of mankind we find ourselves at a juncture where the previous methods of learning and providing information no longer aid our younger generations with learning nor ourselves as lifelong learners. We find ourselves trying to find a way to provide literacy and learning amongst students who find it much faster to look ‘online’ for the answers without questioning the methods or safety of that choice.

AS a librarian this can be really challenging – how does the holder and keeper of books, knowledge and provider of skills to understand research and verify the validity of works, find a place in the virtual world, and maintain our status as the anti-plagiarism crusader in a cut and paste world? Do we abandon paper books and head straight to digital versions; do we get rid of our encyclopedias and focus on Google? How do we gain literacy?

The answer is, we change and develop like the changing nature of technology. The library must become a place of safe learning where students can roam to chat, visit, and share and question others in the space – also a safe place to explore a potentially dangerous world on the internet and learn to question before signing up or giving out their information. It becomes a place for all literacies to grow, those in reading, numeracy and life skills. The Library Learning Commons becomes a place that still holds books but also moves with the technology and helps students with virtual tools.

How am I going to achieve this at Oilfields? Well, the process has begun and we have gained a huge start with funding from FSD and OHS to refurnish the Library Learning Commons. The shift from a quiet space with individuals working alone is now a hub of chatter and sharing. Next, I will be working with the teaching staff and eventually providing virtual tools for the students and parents.

As I grow as a Learning Commons Librarian I will share, guide and encourage the changes needed at Oilfields to ensure our students have quality school library services to support their learning and facilitate growth amongst our staff and community.