Converting a space to a library learning commons presents many challenges. Most schools were built at a time when the card catalogue and the encyclopedia were the primary means by which students tracked down the information that they needed or found the books that they wanted to read. Many school libraries may still be arranged as if this were still true.

Macdonald High School in Ste.-Anne-de-Bellevue, Quebec (Lester B. Pearson School Board) was built at the beginning of the twentieth century. In the school library, there is a highly attractive arch built into a supporting wall that used to be the entrance to the entire school. It’s lovely, but it divides the library.  The bookshelves used to take up so much space that the library could not accommodate one entire class. There were attractive stained glass pieces whose frames were built right into the walls. How to solve these problems and convert the library to a 21st century library learning commons?

The film below, Edwardian Era Library to 21st Century Library Learning Commons, shows how these challenges were met. Maria Cavaiuolo, Documentation Technician, highlights how imagination, creativity, and empathy with students’ needs to collaborate and have a “home” in the library helped resolve those issues in novel ways. In fact, this may be the first time you see how digital devices can be joined up with roller foot massagers to make a mobile device surfing bar unique. That’s just one example. Maria demonstrates how arranging all the bookshelves along the wall was the beginning of an overall solution to gaining space in the library.

In the video, Maria emphasizes the importance of putting the office right in the centre of the action so that students can be greeted immediately upon coming in. By doing so, the former library office becomes a usable space for students, teachers and various groups to meet for all kinds of activities such as practices for events like a Battle of the Books.

The participation of principal, teachers, and students with great ideas and thoughtful donations have given this library a very individual look, from the foot massagers to the engraved bookshelf to the library ladder. If you’re looking for ideas that are student-friendly, this is a great film to watch.