The commencement of the second semester for WCI began not only new courses for the students, but a new library policy to encourage the use of the space as a positive working environment. Students were shocked when they entered the library on February 3rd to see lists of students on spare who would be allowed in the space during the day. These lists were accompanied by a notice that read, “The library is NOT a place to ‘skip’ class. Only students on a spare, with a teacher, or who have e-learning on their timetable are allowed in during Periods A, B, C, and D. If your name is not on the list, you will be asked to go to class.”
The policy was put into place by Mr. Fusco, the school’s librarian. The motive behind this change was his vision of transforming the library from just a regular library to a library “learning commons.” This transformative state has been a work in progress for a couple of years. His goal is to provide resources such as books and technology for students to help with their academic achievement, as well as comfortable places to sit such as the couches and ergonomic chairs.
Mr. Fusco is not a typical librarian. Whereas stereotypical librarians are strict and demand silence from the users of the space, Fusco encourages healthy volumes of noise. “I’ve never said anything about silence. I just want constructive use of the space and volumes that are acceptable so other people can work,” he shared.
He continued, “I found when it was just a hangout place that it got overly loud. And now you’ve noticed this week that volume has gone down dramatically. And student achievement, I think, has gone up because when I walk around, I see students working. There’s still the occasional students sleeping in the study carols; there’s still somebody watching cartoons; there’s somebody watching a movie. But what I also see is students getting their homework done before they leave for the day. And I think that is a more productive use of their time. They’re not distracted by loud, boisterous behaviour.”
Another fundamental aspect of the library learning commons is providing technology for all students. Fusco believes that each student should have access to technology to enrich their learning experience. “Technology used to be for those who could afford it. We removed that barrier. So your financial situation is no longer a consideration for access to technology,” he explained.
The new policy was adopted from other librarians at schools in the surrounding area. Fusco brought this idea forward to the administrative staff of WCI, who fully backed the change, stating that it would encourage students to go to class and further the evolution of the library learning commons.
Mrs. Crowell, the head of the English department and a familiar face to those who regularly use the library, also supported the implementation of the policy and agreed that it would lower the number of students who were skipping class. “We weren’t encouraging it, but we weren’t doing anything about it either. So we thought, okay, maybe it’s time to make a shift,” she commented.
In the first three weeks of implementation, Fusco and Crowell have seen a major improvement in the culture of the library. They hope that the library continues its transformation into a learning commons; the policy is just the next step.