Masters Thesis

Libraries of the future: learning commons a case study of a State University in California

Libraries used to be quiet reflective places where people went to find information and read and study. Even university libraries expected students to only talk in hushed voices and most of the space was taken up by book stacks. Today university libraries are encouraging students to interact, work in groups and not only be involved in silent study. Due to internet technology and the need to prepare students for future employers who expect problem solving and collaborative employees, university libraries are taking on a different identity - the learning commons. An effective learning commons is based on sound learning theories, which acknowledge that true learning occurs when students observe or practice and interact socially. This comprehensive learning commons consists of three aspects – the physical commons, the virtual commons and the socio-cultural commons. The physical aspect includes the arrangement of space and the concrete objects within that space. This means the positioning of study areas, the type of furniture, the lighting and the location of resources and services. The virtual commons consists of the access students have to digital resources so they can reach out into the virtual world for information and interaction. The socio-cultural aspect includes the events and activities hosted or sponsored by the library/learning commons. These are offered to enhance students’ insights about world and local events and to strengthen their sense of civic engagement. These events may be lectures, exhibits and special collections. The interaction among all three of these aspects creates a holistic learning commons, which fosters whole student development. This study investigates student perceptions of how well the Humboldt State University library/learning commons serves student learning needs. Humboldt State students were surveyed to find out if the physical, virtual and socio-cultural aspects of the library meet their current needs. Interviews with library staff complemented the student surveys. The results of this study identify some of the key dimensions of a successful learning commons library.