What is MCHS’ New Learning Commons Like?

MCHS+student+Shannahan+Gardner+studies+in+the+new+Learning+Commons.
MCHS student Shannahan Gardner studies in the new Learning Commons.

MCHS student Shannahan Gardner studies in the new Learning Commons.

MCHS student Shannahan Gardner studies in the new Learning Commons.

Grace Massie, Staff Writer

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*This story has been edited for accuracy.

This school year, MCHS added a new learning commons to replace the old library that had gone through extensive water damage after a storm. The Learning Commons brings technology into learning in a way that is accessible and is an extra space for students and classes to study among themselves with the private study rooms. However, The Learning Commons was not just thrown together overnight.

According to Learning Commons Coordinator/Media Specialist Linda Brinegar, there was a team of MCHS staff that traveled to different learning commons all over the state in all different schools: elementary, high schools, and even Indiana University Bloomington’s learning commons. From those models MCHS could pick and choose what we thought would be most relevant to our students and our curriculum, Brinegar intimated.

The new space was not without controversy. There were some grumblings among the public, usually about the removal of books.

“This space is smaller than our last library, and we have a lot more happening in this space than just book circulation. Our space was more limited,” said Brinegar. Anything that had been damaged or unsanitary or missing pages was discarded. Brinegar ordered new copies of the discarded books that were heavily circulated among students. Many books that never circulated were disposed of as well. Heavily damaged books with multiple copies were also discarded.

A portion of the bookshelves in The Learning Commons.

The previous library had a café where students would purchase snacks and drinks, but that was the only thing offered other than books. The Learning Commons no longer offers snacks and drinks, but it is also closer to the cafeteria and full of new technology that food should not be around. The renovated atrium between The Learning Commons and cafeteria makes for a great space to study. While no snacks are allowed in the atrium, it is located adjacent to the cafeteria.

The feedback from the students is a broad spectrum. One student who wishes to remain anonymous said, “The Learning Commons looks very nice and has very comfortable seating. The only problem is at times, it is unusable. It is supposed to function as a library/learning space. You would expect to be able to go into the Learning Commons to study as you please, but that often is not the case. Students are often kicked out for not having a pass, and if you are a part of the FLEX program for a free study hall and just want to sit in there and study, you will usually be kicked out. Other times when you want to study there will be classes in there presenting on the boards which makes it a loud area and not an easy place to focus in. The old library was perfectly fine and had much more space; they should have just fixed the roof.”

Students are sometimes not allowed entry due to staffing problems. The one who is meant to be in the Learning Commons and primarily responsible for the students in there at all times (Shikha Mittal) gets pulled when the school is short on substitute teachers. Also, sometimes students are not allowed entrance to prevent tardies, truancies, and absences.

Part of a conferencing and study area in The Learning Commons.

Another anonymous student added, “The Learning Commons really makes our school look more professional and up to date. It is a good place to study, and makes it easy to hold student-led study sessions.”

The Learning Commons has enough seating and space available to hold two average classrooms comfortably so teachers can move there if needed. One popular activity is to host class presentations. The flow of students coming in and out of the Learning Commons is also much more frequent than it was with the old library.

Brinegar added, “This space will accommodate a lot of students and meet a lot of their needs.”

Another seating area with mood lighting and leather reclining chairs with more bookshelves in the background.

Learning Commons “libraries” are a national trend not unique to Madison. They have become much more en vogue in public, academic, and K-12 libraries.

We were sort of lagging behind in the national trend, and now MCHS is in the forefront of the learning commons movement, Brinegar said.

A video display with four big screen displays creating one image in the new Learning Commons.

 

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What is MCHS’ New Learning Commons Like?