Libraries as Learning Commons
In the next three chapters, we describe three conceptual frameworks that provide a useful lens for examining ways that libraries develop in different community contexts. We describe these as: (a) the library as a learning commons; (b) the library as the community learning center; and (c) the library as an agent of change. While we acknowledge that there are more commonalities than differences in services and programs among libraries, applying such frameworks can be a useful exercise to view library development. Doing so would highlight each unique purposes, aspirations and designs of libraries, and help understand how libraries achieve their distinctive visions. As proposed in the first chapter on the foundations of linkages of libraries with literacy and learning, these lenses are not intended to represent a developmental process, model or a standard to evaluate libraries. Actual living libraries cannot be neatly matched to any one model. The descriptions act as useful lenses through which we hope to highlight the impact and influences on communities’ literacy and learning demonstrated by the libraries profiled in this book. At different points in their evolution, these libraries reflect particular constellations of practices as their missions and goals respond to changing circumstances. Understanding the particular missions of libraries provides the context from which to interpret their programs and understand how they support literacy and learning in their communities. A library does not just spring into full potential; its development is an organic process as expressed in this description of the New York Public Library (2012): “It has been very much a creature of time and place, bearing the imprint of its origins but always, like any living organism, coping with struggles and problems while adapting to an everchanging environment” (n.p.).