The student voice of St. George's Independent School.

The Lodge

The student voice of St. George's Independent School.

The Lodge

The student voice of St. George's Independent School.

The Lodge

Out with the Old, in with the New

Pros and cons of the new Learning Commons
Photo: Livi VanSteenberg
Mr. Nick Whicker uses the Learning Commons for his middle school religion class, where students are collaborating.

Upon returning to St. George’s for the 2023-2024 school year, it wasn’t long before students realized that the library looked different.

Instead of bookshelves, the right side of the room had been filled with desks and chairs, while the left side of the room housed an even greater number of bookshelves than it had previously. Over the summer, the library we know and love was rearranged into what is now called the “Learning Commons.”

Mrs. Kara Vaughn, the St. Georges Director of Teaching and Learning, oversaw the library’s rearrangement over the summer.

“This summer I was around campus working with teams to really just do basic construction,” Mrs. Vaughn said. “So, [this included] moving bookshelves, weeding the different collections [and] cleaning out old offices. [This just got] the space reset so that it could function for us the way that we need it to function for now.”

She explained that the library was reorganized because an increase in technology has changed students’ needs, and the new Learning Commons seeks to address those needs better.

“The question for librarians who started shifting to Learning Commons back in the 90s and the 2000s is they realized: with all of this digital resource, is it really necessary to have tons and tons and tons of print? And for us at St. George’s, it was a quick yes. We have all of these digital tools, and a library is really important to us, too, as a community,” she said. “So we tried to really embrace both and maintain a library, but also create space for y’all’s changing needs and navigating information digitally more than print.”

With all the changes that have happened, some may wonder if the library has lost anything in the process of being made into a Learning Commons.

Mrs. Sami Hartsoe, Director of Middle School Learning Services and a member of the Core Commons team, admitted that she could understand why people thought this way.

“I think that the look of not having two sides of books makes it look like we don’t have as many books available,” she said.

A minor drawback of having fewer bookshelves and more open space is that the space may not feel as much like a library to many students.

Senior Gracye Thompson, a student known to frequent the library, agrees that the Learning Commons lacks the aesthetic that the McClain library previously had.

“In my opinion, or at least from what I’ve noticed is that [the library has] lost the… aspect of being inviting,” she stated. “Although it may be purposeful for the design… it just doesn’t seem as welcoming and cozy… as it was once before.”

Despite some loss of aesthetic, Mrs. Crista Smothers believes the Learning Commons to be an improvement from past years. In addition to giving students a place to study and read, the Commons includes a robotics area. This has allowed the school’s robotics teams to work more efficiently.

“I was really excited this year to get the room across the hall,” Mrs. Smothers recounted. “It’s letting me separate my high school robotics from my middle school robotics and so it’s giving me a lot more room for my equipment, space for the competition field, space for students to work.”

Only time will tell if the Learning Commons is a hit among students.

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