Libraries to Learning Commons

In the latter part of 2010, the Ottawa Catholic School board embarked on an ambitious plan to transform and renovate its school libraries. The transition from library to Learning Commons  was inspired by the Together for Learning : School Libraries and the Emergence of the Learning Commons: a vision for the 21st Century document published by the Ontario School Library Association (OSLA).

French version: Ensemble pour apprendre : les bibliothèques scolaires et et l’émergence d’un carrefour d’apprentissage : une vision pour le XXIe siècle

The document states that a Learning Commons is a vibrant, whole-school approach, presenting exciting opportunities for collaboration among teachers, teacher-librarians and students……

The Learning Commons becomes the physical and virtual catalyst where inquiry, imagination, discovery, and creativity come alive and become central to growth - personal, academic, social and cultural.

The school library, a key component of a Learning Commons, has an integral and transformative role to play in implementing this fresh and innovative vision for education. (p. 3)

At the time of the release of this document several key educators and consultants from the Learning Technologies, Student Success department embarked on a journey of learning and exploration. We attended workshops, library association conferences, sought out innovators, and read copious amounts of print and online material. (see reading list).

David Loertscher, Professor, School of Library and Information Science, San Jose State University, and Carol Koechlin, Library consultant and former teacher-librarian who participated in the rewrite of the Together For Learning document, were instrumental in spearheading this movement in libraries.

David and Carol were instrumental in organizing a Canadian Treasure Mountain,, a conference of like-minded school library researchers and practitioners, akin to a think-tank, who meet annually to gather to discuss and record observations and experiences regarding the transformation in libraries. As well, David Loertscher’s Learning Commons website continues to be an important vehicle for gathering and sharing information.

In 2010, our newly appointed superintendent of Learning Technologies, Student Success, Tom D’Amico created a document outlining his vision for a 21st Century School board. His mandate was to increase technology and to empower students to become future digital citizens prepared to meet the requirements of a changing workplace. With approval from senior executives and backing from a major stakeholder, Planning and Facilities Superintendent, Fred Chrystal we were set to go ahead with the project.

The T4L document was a good fit for this vision. Mr. D'Amico felt that the Learning Commons model could serve as blueprint for the transition. See more @

We began the journey in earnest in May of 2011. The projected estimate to completion was three years, and was subject to approval of funding. It was quite ambitious in scope as it would affect 81 schools and over 38,000 students once completed. Along the way we learned a great deal and had numerous challenges and some wonderful surprises and discoveries.