May 10, 2016

How ICTs Are Changing the College Library and Expanding Our Classrooms

This text was initially published by Profweb under a CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 International licence, before Eductive was launched.

The school library was something that I had not given too much thought to prior to reading an inspiring article entitled How This School Library Increased Students Use by 1,000 Percent. It’s about a high school in the United States that transformed their library into an open concept collaboration centre. The teacher in me saw this concept as both exciting and inspirational. How great would it be to have a room full of ICT equipment and tools that my students could use in a collaborative way? A library that was busy and noisy, with groups of students working, talking, creating and learning together. Where there was an “ICT librarian” to help them when they had questions or problems with a tool. This led me to thinking about our college libraries. Could this be possible? Could I dream of possibly having access to an extended classroom for even more active learning and collaboration projects? With ICT taking more and more of a place in our pedagogical strategies, where does the college library fit in this educational approach?

The school library in the article evolved from the least visited space in the school (approximately 10 students per week) to being the hot spot. They did this by moving bookshelves to the outside walls in order to create the open space required for all of the equipment they wanted to add. This equipment included TVs to use with mobile devices, an interactive projector, a moveable whiteboard, interactive screens, a green screen and video recording equipment, iPads and fixed desktop computers. They even changed the usual tables and chairs to movable furniture. These modifications have, in turn, extended the classrooms within their school, providing tools that not every classroom had and allowing teachers and students to use the new space in addition to their classroom. When they began their project they had no extra funding. The committee asked for donations of TVs, furniture (to put wheels on), etc. as a way to get started. Finally the school obtained a grant of $20 000 which allowed them to invest in their dream equipment. Since this was a high school, not a college, I started wondering how and if this type of open concept learning centre could be a reality in our milieu.

I did some research and found a few universities in Canada that were creating open concept collaboration spaces called collaborative commons. They didn’t mention ICTs or equipment for students to use, just a space where groups could work together, not have to whisper and they were able to move furniture around as needed. Then I turned my research to see what local colleges were doing, and was pleasantly surprised by what I discovered. The plan for the next generation of college libraries coincides with my dream for the future, and library administrators are already working to make ICT-augmented collaborative spaces a reality!

I spoke with a few different people in our college system and learned that the vision of the college library is to shift from a place to find books to a place where students and teachers are actively supported. This support is changing greatly and varies according to the programs offered at each college. Libraries offer:

  • Books and reference material for loan
  • Equipment such as laptops, iPads, cameras, etc.
  • Space for group work (sometimes in enclosed rooms)
  • Instructional labs where an entire class can receive training on various subjects (like how to conduct effective research and reference their work properly, for example)

According to Marc Julien, Specialist in Teaching Methods and Techniques at CEGEP Limoilou, the library staff has to be flexible and ready to assist in many different areas. The staff at the Charlesbourg Campus library have noticed that the types of requests have changed a great deal. The school library has many different vocations now and their challenge is to adapt in a timely and proactive manner in order to keep up with the needs of the students and the teachers. Nicole Haché, Library Coordinator at Champlain-St. Lambert, sees the role of St. Lambert library as a partnership builder. By creating partnerships with programs and teachers in her CEGEP, she is able to provide the help and services they need. Nicole nicely summarized how she views her library:

Student success is part of the library mindset. It’s not about the books, it’s about the services.

The Charlesbourg Campus Library at CEGEP Limoilou is divided into different zones in order provide various services to teachers and students.

This was echoed by Nathalie Faure, Library Technician at Champlain-St. Lawrence.  Providing services for the students, such as accompanying students during their research and teaching them how to carry out effective research is a major role that the St. Lawrence library now plays.  Nathalie explained that in the past, the references that were available in the library all came from reliable sources. Students did not need guidance in selecting their references. Today, students need to learn how to identify a reliable source when conducting their research online.  These services are all now part of what the library staff offers, whether it is training provided to an entire class, one-on-one assistance, or loaning equipment like laptops and iPads. The library staff is ready to do their part to help students succeed.

In addition to training facilities and research support, the new library is also emphasizing the importance of collaborative spaces. At Champlain-St. Lawrence there are several designated rooms available for group work.  No whispering necessary in these rooms that are conveniently located near the circulation desk, should students have any questions. A future extension of the library at Champlain-St. Lawrence could provide even more of these types of spaces. There are computers available for students to do individual work in another area of the library.  At Champlain-St. Lambert, the library has several floors which allows the college to structure and organise the services that are available to faculty and students. For example, the first floor of the library is an open-concept collaboration space where furniture can be moved around and students are able to work in groups.  There are computers for student use and an instruction lab can also be found on this floor. The Charlesbourg Campus of CEGEP Limoilou has integrated collaboration rooms that are equipped with a whiteboard and a TV monitor that can be connected to laptops. In the same area of the library, there are tables with chess boards and other games available to students so that they can take a break and get their minds off of studying for a little while. This is important since student anxiety has become an increasingly problematic phenomenon within the CEGEP system. In a different zone of the library there are computers for individual students to use and at the far end of the library is an active learning classroom.  The library at the Charlesbourg Campus has a few additional treasures such as an audio-visual department located within the library that boasts a green screen, a video creation and editing room, and even a technician for support!

The main floor of the Champlain St. Lambert library was designed as an open concept collaborative space for students.

These examples demonstrate how the Regroupement des bibliothèques collégiales du Québec(REBICQ) views the role of college libraries. All of the specialists I spoke with reiterated the positive changes that are coming and the shared vision that is forwarded by REBICQ. There is a desire to rise to the occasion in order to offer the required services for learning and student success. The rapidity of these changes is often tributary to the amount of funding that is available, as the renovations they require are expensive.  This hasn’t stopped libraries, however, from moving forward, implementing the advancements that do not require substantial investments as much as possible.

Through the process of writing this article, I discovered that my dream library is already becoming a reality. The future of our college libraries is very exciting for both students and teachers. Knowing that the library is growing and evolving with the vision of providing the help and services required in this new age is, in fact, a relief. With the new paradigm shift in libraries, teachers have a pedagogical partner and students also receive the help and guidance they need require.  Our college libraries are becoming an extension of the classroom, providing services and expertise that are absolutely crucial for the success of our students.  I invite you to learn more about the library at your college – I am sure you are in for a pleasant surprise!  

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